Meet 'Oumuamua, Our First Guest From Another Solar System
And scientists think there could be thousands more just like it passing through
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 21, 2017 8:17 AM CST
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An artist's impression, courtesy of the ESO.   (European Southern Observatory, via University of Hawaii)

(Newser) – Houston, we have a visitor—and astronomers think there could be 10,000 more just like it "lurking" in wait, as the Guardian puts it. Meet 1I/2017 U1, or 'Oumuamua (Hawaiian for "messenger" or "scout"), which scientists say is an asteroid from another solar system—a cosmic first for observers on Earth. CNN notes the "oddball" 'Oumuamua first caught Hawaiian astronomers' attention as it was hurtling through our solar system last month, and using telescopes, they've determined it's probably not so different than our native asteroids and comets. And because asteroids start to take shape around a particular planet as it forms, that hints there may be other planets not too different from our own in other solar systems. "For decades we've theorized that such interstellar objects are out there, and now—for the first time—we have direct evidence they exist," a NASA rep says in a statement.

A study published in Nature notes the dark-red coloring of the 1,300-foot-long, cigar-shaped space rock, which suggests it may be made up of organic molecules, the "building blocks" of life. Per a release, data on the asteroid was gathered from telescopes worldwide, which helped cull tons of data on 'Oumuamua's "unusual nature." Two teams are behind this expanded 'Oumuamua description, and one out of UCLA estimates there could be another 10,000 or so of what the Guardian deems "interstellar interlopers" taking a road trip through our solar system, still waiting to be found. Based on their calculations, scientists think about 1,000 of these bodies enter our solar system each year, while 1,000 depart. Astronomers believe that as telescope and data processing technology improves, they'll start spotting more of them. (We can thank one asteroid's good aim for our existence.)

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