First Known Interstellar Asteroid
An object from far beyond our solar system has recently been discovered that is very strange. It is a rapidly rotating object, at least as big as a football field, and changes in brightness dramatically, hinting that it could be more than 10 times longer than it is wide – something never seen in our solar system.
It was classified as an interstellar asteroid, the first ever observed, and named 1I/2017 U1 (`Oumuamua). The name was chosen in consultation with Hawaiian language experts and reflects the way this object is like a scout or messenger sent from the distant past to reach out to us (`ou means “reach out for”, and mua, with the second mua, means “first”.)
It must have traveled through space for millions of years before its chance encounter with our star system. It’s a dark dense reddish, and very elongated rocky or high-metal-content object. Its surface is dark red from the effects of the irradiation of cosmic rays over millions of years. It is estimated to be at least 400 meters long. Astronomers calculated its hyperbolic orbit, showing beyond a doubt that it did not originate from our solar system. It is the first known asteroid from interstellar space.
It shares characteristics with Kuiper Belt objects and organic-rich comets and Trojan asteroids. It is completely inert, without a hint of dust around it.
Astronomers continue to observe this unique object in hopes of pinning down where it came from and where it’s going.
Artist’s impression by M. Kornmesser shows the 1st interstellar asteroid.
The brightest star visible from any part of Earth is Sirius in the constellation Canis Major, the Greater Dog. Sirius is well known as the Dog Star. The term “Dog Days of Summer” came to mean the 20 days before and 20 days after this alignment of Sirius with the Sun. The dog days are the hot, sultry days of summer.
In India, Sirius is known as Svana, the dog of Prince Yudhistira. The prince and his four brothers, along with Svana, went on a long and arduous journey to find the kingdom of heaven. One by one the brothers abandoned the search until only Yudhistira and Svana were left. At last they came to the gates of heaven. The gatekeeper, Lord Indra, welcomed the prince but denied Svana entrance. Yudhistira was aghast and told Lord Indra that he could not forsake his faithful friend. Yudhistira told the Lord that his brothers had abandoned the journey to heaven to follow their hearts’ desires. But Svana, who had given his heart freely, chose to follow none but Yudhistira. The prince told the Lord that without his dog, he would forsake even heaven. This is what Lord Indra wanted to hear, and he welcomed both the prince and the dog through the gates of heaven.
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