Scientists have spotted an asteroid from another solar system orbiting Jupiter backward, and it’s the first ‘alien’ object to visit our solar system and stay.
Not much time has passed since mankind identified the first ever visitor from interstellar space; an elongated, weird-looking asteroid by the name of Oumuamua.
Now, it turns out there’s another asteroid from another solar system that decided to swing by our star system. However, unlike Oumuamua, this asteroid apparently chose to stay.
According to astronomers, the alien object is sharing Jupiter’s orbit but is doing so in the opposite direction.
The interstellar visitor is named 2015 BZ509.
Images of asteroid 2015 BZ509, which appears to have come from another star system. Photograph: Royal Astronomical Society
It is believed that the mysterious object, 2 miles across, was parked in our solar system in the first moments of the birth of our star system, some 4.5 billion years ago.
Researchers from France and Brazil ran a number of computer simulations that show how BZ509 has been orbiting our sun since the beginning of our solar system.
However, while it’s circling our sun, it’s actually moving backward.
The result of the study was recently published in the journal Royal Astronomical Society and come just seven months after mankind identified our first known interstellar gues, a cigar-shaped object which was even observed for traces of alien life.
“Oumuamua is of interstellar origin, but it is also only a tourist passing by our solar system,” said lead author Fathi Namouni of the University of Cote d’Azur in Nice, France. “BZ is not. It is a bona fide immigrant, and the notion of immigration is a hot topic nowadays all over the world!”
According to Namouni, in the distant past, stars in the Milky Way galaxy were located much closer than they are right now. This fact allowed asteroids and comets to zip between solar system more frequently.
However, when asked whether Oumuamua and BZ509 came from the same solar system, the researcher said it was highly unlikely.
Namouni and his team expect that more objects like BZ509 to be discovered in the near future.
“There is no reason why there shouldn’t be more masquerading as solar system asteroids like BZ did so far,” Namouni wrote. He said the area just beyond Neptune, the farthest planet in our solar system, might be teeming with extrasolar asteroids — or exo asteroids — like BZ.
Discovering the peculiar orbit of BZ, and its origin came as a surprise said co-author Helena Morais of Sao Paulo State University in Brazil, adding how precisely that this is part of the fun of science.
“If we may have asteroids that pass by, then we should also expect asteroids that come to stay,” she wrote in an email describing the discovery.