Courtesy ESO/M. Kornmesser

First observed interstellar asteroid given Hawaiian name

Traveling at 85,700 miles per hour, Oumuamua will give astronomers a chance to observe an object from a solar system that is not our own.

Oumuamua (defined as “scout”) is a fitting name for the astronomical blip spotted by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope, which is situated on Maui’s Haleakala volcano. First thought to be merely another comet or asteroid, astronomers were excited to learn, based on the odd orbit of the object, this asteroid had originated from another solar system entirely, making it the first observed interstellar asteroid.

Termed originally as A/2017 UI by the International Astronomical Union, Oumuamua (pronounced Oh-Moo-Ah-Moo-Ah) was spotted on October 19, traveling at an estimated 85,700 miles per hour. Although the window was small, observations showed a rapidly rotating oblong shaped rock with a red hue, likely caused by constant cosmic radiation. The shape in particular is of interest, as the asteroid is 10 times as long (1,300 ft.) as it is wide, a rare and convoluted shape for an asteroid to take.  

Astronomers will continue to study this long-lost traveler as it leaves our solar system, which may take until January 2019, hoping to find clues as to where Oumuamua originated from.