On October 25, 2017, astronomers from NASA’s Minor Planet Center sent out an announcement that they needed help confirming the trajectory of an interesting object.
Known as C/2017 U1 PANSTARRS, the object was moving quickly through the Solar System, on a path that would take it out into deep space.
Astronomers were happy to oblige, providing dozens of observations within a few days, confirming that yes indeed, we were looking at the first asteroid that had come from interstellar space.
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Team: Fraser Cain – @fcain / firstname.lastname@example.org
Karla Thompson – @karlaii / https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEItkORQYd4Wf0TpgYI_1fw
Chad Weber – email@example.com
Chloe Cain – Instagram: @chloegwen2001
It turns out that C/2017 U1 PANSTARRS, later given the Hawaiian name Oumuamua, or “a messenger from afar arriving first”, had already made its closest pass to the Sun on September 9th, 2017, traveling at a top speed of 87.4 kilometers per second.
It whipped around the Sun, and then continued on its hyperbolic orbit out into deep space again. It passed near the Earth on October 14, then crossed the orbit of Mars on November 1st, by May 2018 it’ll be farther than Jupiter, and get past Saturn in early 2019.
Astronomers around the world have been making continuous observations of the asteroid, using some of the largest telescopes on Earth and in space. But they’ve got to work quickly, by mid-December, it’ll be too dim to observe with any of our instruments.