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MRO Tracks First-Known Interstellar Asteroid Through The Solar System

MRO Tracks First-Known Interstellar Asteroid Through The Solar System

November 2, 2017

SOCORRO, N.M. – Astronomers at the New Mexico Tech’s Magdalena Ridge Observatory have observed an interstellar asteroid – or perhaps a comet – that passed through our solar system in September and October.  

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The Magdalena Ridge Observatory 2.4-meter telescope.

 

Drs. Bill and Eileen Ryan are working with NASA to observe and characterize a speedy object dubbed A/2017 U1, which passed through the Solar System about 15 million miles from Earth. This asteroid is only a quarter-mile in diameter, so only telescopes as large as the MRO’s 2.4 meter mirror have been able to gather clear scientific data. The New Mexico Tech scientists have been told that so far their data is the best help to study the object’s outward trajectory.

Anyone interested in interviews with either Dr. The asteroid is now very faint, so only a telescope as big as the 2.4-meter can get the best data to be of the most use to the orbit specialists. This information will help NASA-JPL scientists possibly identify what star system the asteroid came from.

A/2017 U1 entered our solar system from above, passed below the inner planets and made a hairpin turn upward. The object then shot passed Earth and is exiting the Solar System and headed toward the constellation Pegasus – most likely never to return.

At the Magdalena Ridge Observatory, Bill Ryan has been working the past week or so to get more astrometric data points (positional data) to help define its outgoing trajectory as it is once again leaving our solar system.