This visitor from beyond our solar system will be probed for signs of life

By Ben Guarino

Our solar system has a visitor. It’s cylindrical, dark and reddish, a quarter-mile long. The object won’t be staying. This fall, astronomers announced that the thing came blazing into our neck of the galaxy at speeds of up to 196,000 mph. It is now headed away as quickly as it came.

The object’s trajectory is so strange and its speeds are so blistering that it probably did not originate from within our solar system. Its discoverers concluded that the object is a rare interstellar traveler from beyond our solar system, the first object of its kind observed by humans.

Astronomers at the University of Hawaii, who discovered the object with the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope, said the visitor was an asteroid. In October, they named the asteroid ‘Oumuamua — Hawaiian for “messenger.” ‘Oumuamua, which appears rocky or metallic, lacks the characteristics of a comet.

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