back to article Interstellar space rock screams through Solar System

Astronomers have spotted an object that they believe came from another star system. The 400-metre-wide object – dubbed A/2017 U1 – was first spotted on October 19 after it slingshotted around the Sun. Analysis of its trajectory suggests it passed beneath Earth's orbit by about 24 million kilometers on October 14. Whatever it …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > "Sadly for those hoping it's an alien probe, it's showing no signs of stopping for a chat."

    I'd start looking along the approach line for two more incomming...

  2. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Natural Voyager

    Sorry, can't stop.

    Passing through.

    No offence.

    Just, can't, stop!

    Watch: "The Farthest" for a cool look back on Voyager 1 and 2

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6223974/

  3. bombastic bob Silver badge
    Devil

    Rendevous with Rama

    just thought I'd mention it

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rendezvous_with_Rama

    (stupid clipboard)

    it'd make a cool movie, though I'm not sure anyone would want to do it nowadays... not enough "what hollyweird wants" in it.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: Rendevous with Rama

      I think that's what Big John (above) was referring to...

    2. Vulch

      Re: Rendevous with Rama

      Morgan Freeman holds the rights and has been trying to get things moving for many years.

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
        Alien

        Re: Rendevous with Rama

        Be afraid. Be very afraid.

        The Ramans always do things in threes.

  4. hughca
    FAIL

    Another galaxy?

    Not sure where you got the idea that it's from another galaxy...?

    AFAIK it's from somewhere else within our galaxy, somewhere in the direction of Lyra apparently.

    1. Notas Badoff

      Re: Another galaxy?

      Another article I read (phys.org) said " - appears to have originated from outside the solar system, coming from somewhere else in our galaxy."

      Here's the link to the NASA article. Ah yes, as quoted by phys.org, "...coming from somewhere else in our galaxy."

      There's a penalty for reading too quickly...

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Another galaxy?

      "But would you have clicked?"

  5. Pat 11

    Excession?

    Or a Contact GCU taking a look?

    1. Elmer Phud

      Re: Excession?

      Planet looks useful, may need to re-start with mew terraforming package as 'current' inhabitants have made such a mess.

      Recommend fresh start -- current surface humanoid surface dwellers not vital for regeneration --oh and the Dolphins say ''Hi' to everyone, took yer bloody time'

      1. DropBear Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Excession?

        Okay, admit it - the "mew terraforming package" is just a pompous name for planting more catnip all over the place...

      2. Bob Wheeler

        Re: Excession?

        "And thanks for all the fish"

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Excession?

      According to The State Of The Art, we already had a GCU come visit about forty years ago without anyone noticing, so I don't know why we'd expect to recognise one now ;)

  6. 27escape
    Alien

    "Sadly for those hoping it's an alien probe"

    I thought you got those after you were abducted!

  7. David Harper 1

    An eccentricity of 1.2 ...

    ... means that it was on a hyperbolic orbit. Mathematically, this means that it is not gravitationally bound to the Sun, and will escape from the Solar System in due course. The Voyager and Pioneer spacecraft are also on hyperbolic orbits, by design. None of these things came from outside the galaxy.

    1. Spudley

      Re: An eccentricity of 1.2 ...

      The Voyager and Pioneer spacecraft are also on hyperbolic orbits, by design. None of these things came from outside the galaxy.

      Out of interest, I wonder what the eccentricity values are for Voyager and Pioneer? (just for the sake of comparison with this thing)

      1. Elmer Phud

        Re: An eccentricity of 1.2 ...

        Is that a normal deviation of the full Jacob Rees-Mogg?

      2. Vulch

        Re: An eccentricity of 1.2 ...

        Voyager 1 - 3.72, Voyager 2 - 6.28

        https://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/science/hyperbolic-orbital-elements/

        Elliptical orbits to their Jupiter encounter, then a boost from each subsequent encounter.

  8. Excellentsword

    It's carrying the protomolecule.

  9. Christoph Silver badge

    That's a weird orbit

    I'd expect something coming from interstellar space to swing wide around the sun. The story doesn't say how close it came, but judging by the handbrake turn it did that was practically a direct hit!

    Very odd that the first interstellar object we saw made such a close pass. Or is it that the close pass makes it easier to detect?

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: That's a weird orbit

      They were tuning in to radio signals, randomly, heard a few seconds of "set the controls for the heart of the sun", & thought, yeah, might be a bit of fun to do that while we are here

      1. Joe User

        Re: That's a weird orbit

        Are we missing two humpback whales and a cetacean biologist, by any chance?

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: That's a weird orbit

      We only spotted it after it passed the Sun, and the article states that astronomers are only counting on a few weeks to study it - after that it will be too dark.

      This thing is not a comet, it's a rock.

      To me that means that there are probably many more rocks like that flying around in the most awesome game of billiards ever invented, and we don't have a clue about where or how many.

      There's likely all kinds of orbits for those things - but we won't see any of them if they stay beyond Jupiter's orbit.

      1. Eclectic Man

        Re: That's a weird orbit

        As stars lose mass, their planets presumably have a tendency to wander off into inter-stellar space. So presumably there are quite a few Jupiter sized bodies floating around the galaxy. I seem to recall someone seriously claiming that our own solar system evolved with a fifth gas giant in a much closer orbit to the sun which was then expelled, resulting in the more stable planetary order we have today.

        H G Wells did a short story on such an event called "the Star". It's travel through the solar system did not disturb us much, apart from minor re-arrangement of the continents and throwing the Moon into a much wider orbit. Nothing to worry about, really.

    3. HandleAlreadyTaken

      Re: That's a weird orbit

      From the images, it passed very close to the Sun - deep within the orbit of Mercury. Statistically, given the size of the Universe, that looks really unlikely. If it was an alien spacecraft, it may have used the close passage for a gravity assist maneuver - keep into a mind we only saw it on its way out, and the incoming path is extrapolated. If it was just a space rock, either we were really lucky, or there are orders of magnitude more such objects passing through the Solar system, but somehow we failed to see any until now.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: That's a weird orbit

        There are probably quite a few going by, but statistically they usually pass at some ungodly distance like Neptune's orbit or even much further (and far outside the ecliptic too!). This rock practically hit us! None of the other inner planets were even in the same solar hemisphere, just us sitting ducks.

        Y'know, a 15 million kilometer pass could have easily been zero/zero/zero with (or, without?) a very slight delta-v change a few years ago.

        Just sayin...

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I wonder...

      Up-voted, but bitterly, bitterly disappointed that you beat me to it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I wonder...

      "Perhaps a distant civilisation in another solar system decided to store their nuclear waste on the large moon orbiting their planet. "

      That's no moon...

  11. Headley_Grange Silver badge

    Under the Sun?

    I'm not sure anything in our solar system could ever be considered *under* the sun

    1. james 68

      Re: Under the Sun?

      Depends really on whether or not the object is above or below the orbital plane. Though the argument could be made that that is still an arbitrary definition as there is no up or down in space beyond what we ourselves define.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Under the Sun?

        > "...there is no up or down in space..."

        Sure there is, but you only notice it when you oppose what down wants to do with you. It's still there tho, pulling you towards the strongest local down-hole, relentlessly. If you escape the earth down, the sun down still has you, and this rock may have got away from the sun down but it won't escape the galaxy down. And our galaxy won't escape that other galaxy.

        Basically, going down is what everything does, sooner or later.

    2. Kiwi Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Under the Sun?

      Correct. From where some of us stand it could be considered to have passed "above the sun".

      But you folks down under in UK land wouldn't grasp that :)

  12. tempemeaty

    A lot of us thought Rendezvous with Rama =)

    I'm just sad that Arthur C. Clarke isn't still with us to comment on this. T_T

    1. Benchops

      Re: A lot of us thought Rendezvous with Rama =)

      My favourite Arthur C Clarke comment is that The dinosaurs died out because they didn't have an effective space programme. Thank goodness ours seems to be getting better!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A lot of us thought Rendezvous with Rama =)

        Is it good, bad, or indifferent that the dinosaurs died out? Will it be good, bad, or indifferent if humans die out? I'm with good/indifferent in both cases. If you like diversity, you probably don't like species to hang around too long or infest multiple planets.

  13. Eclectic Man

    HHGTTG?

    Obviously some interstellar joyriders trying out their new star drive.

    And then next stop is to crash into the third moon of Jaglom beta. (Looks like a fish, moves like a fish, steers like a cow.)

    (With a apologies to Douglas Noel Adams.)

    1. Scroticus Canis
      Alien

      Re: HHGTTG?

      Mega Death got a better gig deal from Lyra just in time to slingshot around the Sun rather than make a solar splash.

  14. Scroticus Canis
    Coat

    Interstellar space rock screams through Solar System

    OK, but did anyone actually hear it?

    1. Swarthy Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: Interstellar space rock screams through Solar System

      As we all know, "In space, no one can hear you scream"

    2. cray74

      Re: Interstellar space rock screams through Solar System

      OK, but did anyone actually hear it?

      Hubble got a pretty good shot of the bridge. No sound, but guesses can be made.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Alien

        Re: Interstellar space rock screams through Solar System

        Looks like Space Nazis being troubled by Antifa to me. I would have expected Moties.

        Also, from Jimboinfocenter::

        Average orbital speed 26 km/s (58,000 mph) (peaking at 87.8 km/s at perihelion)

        I would have expected a bit more somehow.

        1. Bill Gray

          Re: Interstellar space rock screams through Solar System

          @Destroy All Monsters :

          "...I would have expect a bit more [speed] somehow."

          That's 26 km/s at infinity. Look at it from the sun (really, the solar system barycenter) a few centuries back, and it would be barrelling toward you at 26.07 +/- 0.10 km/s. A few centuries from now, it'll be going away at the same speed. As it went by the Sun, it went much faster. Further details at (warning, I'm author of the linked page)

          https://projectpluto.com/temp/2017u1.htm#speed .

          1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

            Re: Interstellar space rock screams through Solar System

            Excellent link, thanks!

            And yes, now would be a good time to have nuclear propulsion rockets with huge tanks on standby for a fetch quest. In space, you can never be crazy prepared enough.

  15. Brian Allan 1

    "Sadly for those hoping it's an alien probe, it shows no signs of stopping for a chat."

    It has probably captured all the information it needs regarding Earth and our solar system...

  16. ThatOne Silver badge
    Alert

    Look out for falling rocks

    Given we only noticed this one because it passed so close to the sun, one can assume there are many more of them zooming through our solar system all the time. We might regret the peaceful ol' times when NEOs and rogue comets were all we had to worry about...

    Hard hats might become fashionable.

  17. aqk
    Alien

    Another galaxy? Another star system?

    Sorry- it's probably just some rock that finally fell out of the Oort cloud, due to garvitational perturbations fro other objects out there.

    So now it's whipped around the sun, gained speed, and is now headed back out there, and further.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Another galaxy? Another star system?

      That's not how orbital mechanics work.

    2. Bill Gray

      Re: Another galaxy? Another star system?

      @aqk - no. See https://www.projectpluto.com/temp/2017u1.htm#alt_ideas . Yours is debunked idea #2. (If it's any consolation, some professional astronomers had the same thought at first.)

      BTW, definitely this galaxy, at 26 km/s incoming speed. From anyplace else, we'd be talking hundreds of km/s (and probably wouldn't have noticed it).

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The circle of life

    Justeat Galactic Delivers Interstellar Virus ordered the last time humanity existed before being wiped out by another huge rock containing a space hardened extinction level event virus.

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