Our first-ever interstellar visitor has been sighted

  • 21/11/2017
An artist's rendering of the asteroid.
An artist's rendering of the asteroid. Photo credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

Scientists have confirmed the first sighting of an asteroid from beyond our solar system. 

In a paper published in Nature on Monday, titled "A brief visit from a red and extremely elongated interstellar asteroid", astronomers confirmed that an asteroid currently passing through our interstellar neighbourhood comes from unknown cosmic territory. 

They found the asteroid is cigar-shaped, up to 400 metres long, has a "somewhat reddish hue" and travels on a trajectory confirming its interstellar origin.  

Nicknamed `Oumuamua, Hawaiian for "a messenger from afar arriving first", it is believed to have traveled for millions of years and trillions of miles before stumbling upon our Solar System.

"For decades we've theorized that such interstellar objects are out there, and now for the first time, we have direct evidence they exist," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, in a statement. "This history-making discovery is opening a new window to study formation of solar systems beyond our own."

The asteroid is currently heading towards Jupiter and is predicted to leave our solar system in 2019, continuing its long journey towards the Pegasus constellation. 

From there, no one knows.