Interstellar visitor shaped like giant pink fire extinguisher

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A newly discovered object from another star system that’s passing through ours is shaped like a giant pink fire extinguisher. 

That’s the word this week from astronomers who have been observing this first-ever confirmed interstellar visitor. 

“I’m surprised by the elongated shape — nobody expected that,” said astronomer David Jewitt of the University of California, Los Angeles, who led the observation team that reported on the characteristics. 

Scientists are certain this asteroid or comet originated outside our solar system. First spotted last month by the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii, it will stick around for another few years before departing our sun’s neighborhood.

Jewitt and his international team observed the object for five nights in late October using the Nordic Optical Telescope in the Canary Islands and the Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona. 

At approximately 100 feet by 100 feet by 600 feet, the object has proportions roughly similar to a fire extinguisher — though not nearly as red, Jewitt said Thursday. The slightly red hue — specifically pale pink — and varying brightness are remarkably similar to asteroids in our own solar system, he noted. 

u1-moving-red.gif

Images of the first-ever confirmed interstellar visitor, taken with the WIYN telescope. 

R. Kotulla (University of Wisconsin) & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Astronomer Jayadev Rajagopal said in an email that it was exciting to point the Arizona telescope at such a tiny object “which, for all we know, has been traveling through the vast emptiness of space for millions of years.” 

“And then by luck passes close enough for me to be able to see it that night!” 

The object is so faint and so fast — it’s zooming through the solar system at 40,000 mph — it’s unlikely amateur astronomers will see it. 

In a paper to the Astrophysical Journal Letters, the scientists report that our solar system could be packed with 10,000 such interstellar travelers at any given time. It takes 10 years to cross our solar system, providing plenty of future viewing opportunities, the scientists said. 

Trillions of objects from other star systems could have passed our way over the eons, according to Jewitt. 

It suggests our solar system ejected its own share of asteroids and comets as the large outer planets — Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune — formed. 

Why did it take so long to nail the first interstellar wanderer? 

“Space is big and our eyes are weak,” Jewitt explained via email. 

Anticipating more such discoveries, the International Astronomical Union already has approved a new designation for cosmic interlopers. They get an “I” for interstellar in their string of letters and numbers. The group also has approved a name for this object: Oumuamua which in Hawaiian means a messenger from afar arriving first.

© 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Related Posts

As states race to launch sports betting, Congress called to protect games’ integrity

Comments Off on As states race to launch sports betting, Congress called to protect games’ integrity

Fed raises key interest rate

Comments Off on Fed raises key interest rate

Lady Gaga cancels tour dates due to “severe pain”

Comments Off on Lady Gaga cancels tour dates due to “severe pain”

Search on for who stabbed dog 50 times, left him to die in a suitcase

Comments Off on Search on for who stabbed dog 50 times, left him to die in a suitcase

Defense attorneys: Nikolas Cruz is a ‘deeply disturbed’ child who ‘fell through the cracks’

Comments Off on Defense attorneys: Nikolas Cruz is a ‘deeply disturbed’ child who ‘fell through the cracks’

Couple shot dead in ransacked home in gated community

Comments Off on Couple shot dead in ransacked home in gated community

Man arrested for allegedly punching woman who called out manspreading

Comments Off on Man arrested for allegedly punching woman who called out manspreading

Trump’s team

Comments Off on Trump’s team

Turkey’s war on Kurds unsettles fronts in northern Syria

Comments Off on Turkey’s war on Kurds unsettles fronts in northern Syria

Israel’s Netta Barzilai takes top honors at Eurovision

Comments Off on Israel’s Netta Barzilai takes top honors at Eurovision

Grassley pushes DOJ for answers on Flynn interview, cites ‘apparent contradiction’ by Comey

Comments Off on Grassley pushes DOJ for answers on Flynn interview, cites ‘apparent contradiction’ by Comey

M&M’s Christmas commercial sequel comes 20 years after original

Comments Off on M&M’s Christmas commercial sequel comes 20 years after original

Create Account



Log In Your Account