The Strange, Cigar-Shaped Asteroid That Had Astronomers Fascinated
At the time, Weryck was looking for asteroids that might get too close to Earth and thought an unusually-shaped object he saw was one such asteroid. But he wasn’t sure after finding additional images that showed its orbit “didn’t make sense” (via NBC News). Digging further into the collected data, he, along with colleague Marco Micheli at the European Space Agency, found that it had passed by the sun on September 9 of that year, going 196,000 miles per hour (via NASA), and was quickly heading out of our solar system (via Space). By calculating its incoming trajectory, they determined it must have come from outside our solar system, making this celestial cigar the first interstellar object ever recorded.
Over the next eleven days, the world aimed numerous ground and space-based telescopes at the object known as 1I/2017 U1 (the “1” stood for first and the “I” for interstellar) to collect as much data possible about this never before seen object before it vanished. Initially, it was labeled a comet, then changed to an asteroid, but it was doing things that neither are typically known to do.
Scientists concluded it was “no more than 3,000 feet by 400 feet” (via NBC). Overall, the rust-colored cigar-shaped object was “at least seven times as long as it is wide” and spun on its axis end over end every 7.4 hours, per NBC News.
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September 17, 2022 at 09:34PM