The object is now cruising above the ecliptic at roughly 27 miles (44 kilometers) per second and making a beeline for the constellation Pegasus.
“This is the most extreme orbit I have ever seen,” stated CNEOS scientist Davide Farnocchia. “It is going extremely fast, and on such a trajectory that we can say with confidence that this object is on its way out of the solar system and not coming back.”
“We have long suspected that these objects should exist, because during the process of planet formation a lot of material should be ejected from planetary systems,” said Karen Meech, an astronomer at the IfA specializing in small bodies and their connection to solar system formation. “What’s most surprising is that we’ve never seen interstellar objects pass through before.”
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A/2017 U1 was identified by the University of Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS 1 automated telescope, whose goal is to find near-Earth objects for NASA through surveys of the sky. Weryk was the first to spot the object and to submit it to the Minor Planet Center. He also found the object in images taken on Oct. 18, the day before its discovery.
Weryk, who works at the university’s Institute for Astronomy, suspected that the object was interstellar. He contacted IfA graduate Marco Micheli, who confirmed his suspicion using images he took using the European Space Agency’s Tenerife telescope, which is located in the Canary Islands.
If confirmed, the introduction of an interstellar object will present an interesting discussion for the International Astronomical Union, which is the official arbiter of names and designations in astronomy. The union will need to decide on a naming convention for A/2017 U1 and any future interstellar cruisers.
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