First 'interstellar immigrant' discovered in our solar system

Researchers have found that the asteroid 2015 BZ509 did not originate in our solar system.
By Joseph Scalise | May 22, 2018
An asteroid named 2015 BZ509 is the first "interstellar immigrant" ever recorded in our solar system, according to a new study published in The Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters.

The space rock is known as an exo-asteroid because it originated outside our solar system. Even so, despite its origins it has been apart of our system for the 4.5 billion years.

A group of international researchers first noticed the body in 2017, when they used thePan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawaii to track its unique orbit.

"The object was the first observational example of the type of orbits we were studying and we wanted to understand what was its origin," said study co-author Helena Morais, a professor of statistics at Sao Paulo State University, according toCNN.

Though it first seemed that 2015 BZ509 was like any of the other small objects orbiting Jupiter, further observations showed it moved in the opposite direction. As a result, the asteroid and Jupiter pass each other twice per full orbit.

Since the orbit is the same path 2015 BZ509 has always followed, it is extremely unlikely it formed within our solar system. Rather, stars likely dispersed the space rock billions of years ago and deposited it near Jupiter. From there, it became locked in a set orbit.

This discovery is important because it could give researchers new information on other foreign objects that may enter our solar system in the future. The team plans to follow up on their research by taking a closer look at2015 BZ509. As they now know that exists, the want to uncover where exactly it came from.

 

"That's what we need to figure out next," said study lead author Fathi Namouni, a researcher from the Universite Cote d'Azur, according to BBC News.

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