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Meet `Oumuamua, the strange interstellar asteroid that sent us a message

* Asteroid-ship.jpgIn the classic 1973 Arthur C. Clarke science fiction novel "Rendezvous With Rama," a mysterious object is detected outside the orbit of Jupiter as it rapidly approaches the inner solar system. Traveling at high speed and on a hyperbolic trajectory, the object is obviously not from our solar system; it's from interstellar space.

On Oct. 19, astronomers detected their own "Rama."

An object traveling at 60,000 miles per hour (96,560 kilometers per hour) was detected by the powerful Pan-STARRS1 telescope in Hawaii. Follow-up observations revealed that this object had already sped through the inner solar system, having made closest approach with the sun in September. It was on its way back out into interstellar space after being deflected by the sun's gravity. Analysis of its speed and trajectory confirmed that it had come from another star and had likely been adrift in interstellar space for hundreds of millions of years (at least) before encountering our star system.

28th November 2017

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