A strangely-shaped, asteroid-like object is rocking the world of astronomers around the globe.
The skinny, spinning mass of rock and metal popped into our solar system and, for the first time ever, stayed put long enough to be observed by the Pan-STARRS1 Telescope in Hawaii, thus making it the first confirmed visitor from outside our solar system.
Though astronomers aren’t exactly sure where they come from, they believe at least one of these same asteroid-like objects soars through our solar system each year, but travels too fast to ever be captured on telescope.
“We are fortunate that our sky survey telescope was looking in the right place at the right time to capture this historic moment,” NASA Astronomer Lindley Johnson said.
Its discoverers named the massive object “Oumuamua,” which translates from Hawaiian to “a messenger from afar arriving first.”
It was first spotted October 19th and was thought to be a comet, but after other telescopes caught the same glimpse, Oumuamua was determined to be more like an asteroid, reddish in color, and ten times longer than it is wide, with a cigar-like shape that stretches more than 1,300 feet long.
“What a fascinating discovery this is!” said Paul Chodas, manager of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “It’s a strange visitor from a faraway star system, shaped like nothing we’ve ever seen in our own solar system neighborhood.”
Oumuamua poses no danger to hit our planet as it soars through space at nearly 86,000 miles per hour.
It’s on track to jet by a few other planets before leaving our solar system in 2019, but will only be visible from Earth through December.
This still gives astronomers a brief chance to study the mysterious Oumuamua, which could carry secrets on how other solar systems have formed.