There's something strange in the solar neighborhood. "We've never seen anything like this before," Rob Weryk tells the New York Times. Earlier this month, the astronomer at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy discovered a mysterious object zipping through our solar system. Calculations show it came within 24 million miles of the sun on Sept. 9 and 15 million miles of Earth on Oct. 14 while traveling at a blinding 37 miles per second. Calculations also show something unprecedented: the object, currently classified as asteroid A/2017 U1, is the first confirmed to have arrived in our solar system from another. "It is fairly certain we are dealing with our first truly identified alien visitor," Professor Alan Fitzsimmons tells the Guardian.
Astronomers have calculated the orbit of A/2017 U1 into the past and future and found it always traveling fast enough to escape the sun's gravity. "Unless there are serious problems" with astronomers' calculations, that means it came from outside the solar system, according to the Minor Planet Center. The center's Dr. Gareth Williams explains that the object's orbit features "no close approaches to any of the giant planets that could have given this thing a kick," so "it is coming from interstellar space and it is going to interstellar space." A/2017 U1, which is estimated to be less than 400 meters in diameter, appears to already be on its way back out of our solar system, so scientists are rushing to study it before it's too late. They say it could be made out of entirely different materials than those that comprise the comets and asteroids found closer to home. (A 40-year-old signal from space has finally been explained.)