Space is totally big and totally awesome. It’s actually really hard to imagine just how big and empty it is. Yet, just like that, an asteroid from another star system has made its way here; Oumuamua. Though its stay in the Sol system will be brief, it’s still cool to know that encounters as unlikely as this can still happen. In the short time it’s been studied, us humans have managed to find out a few things about it.
If you’re wondering about the name, it means “scout” in Hawaiian. Initially, it was thought that the interstellar object was a comet, but further analysis confirmed that it was actually an asteroid. Given it’s an interstellar asteroid, the official designation is 1I/2017 U1, with 1I meaning it’s the first interstellar object detected. Yeah, not something easy to remember, is it?
It’s also a pretty strange shape. It looks like a long cigar. It’s not clear how the asteroid formed in the first place. Some astronomers theorise it could be a contact pair; two asteroids lightly glued together in a light collision. Either way, it’s now heading out of the Solar System at a great pace. At its closest approach to the Sun, the asteroid was estimated to be travelling at about 86 kilometres per second.
While observation time’s been limited, scientists have come to the conclusion that Oumuamua is quite similar in composition to comets and asteroids in our home system. This is important, because it means that our solar system and its chemical composition might be very common. If that’s the case, it increases the chances of finding other life out there.