Last month, astronomer spotted what they suspected was an interstellar object in or Solar System. Now, they have just released a paper on 1I/2017 U1 (Oumuamua), the Hawaiian name that means “reach out or” and “first.”
The results of the study show that the object is a bizarre, elongated shape. It measures 10 times as long (400 meters) as it is wide, and spins on its axis once every 7.3 hours. The object, which scientists now believe is an asteroid, is dark and reddish in color. It also appears to be dense, meaning it is either rocky or has high metallic content.
“What we found was a rapidly rotating object, at least the size of a football field, that changed in brightness quite dramatically,” Karen Meech from University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy (IfA), the study’s lead author, said in a statement. “This change in brightness hints that `Oumuamua could be more than 10 times longer than it is wide – something which has never been seen in our own Solar System.”
The object was first spotted in mid-October by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawaii. Astronomers quickly assembled to gather as much information as possible.
“We had to act quickly,” team member Olivier Hainaut from ESO in Garching, Germany said in the statement. “`Oumuamua had already passed its closest point to the Sun and was heading back into interstellar space.”
Astronomers are continuing to observe the object and are hoping to discern where it originated.