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A mysterious object suspected to be our solar system’s first interstellar visitor hurtled past Earth last October.
The object was discovered by a researcher in Hawaii using a telescope system that scans for objects that may threaten the Earth. The object, believed to be a comet or an asteroid, was referred to as A/2017 U1. What piqued the curiosity of scientists was that its speed and orbit were so extreme that it was able to escape the gravitational pull of the sun.
Scientists are continuing to trace the object’s path. However, scientists expect that the object may become too faint to be detected by telescopes a few months after it passed our planet.
With little information about A/2017 U1, its origin remains a moot point. Some scientists believe that it may be an object from the Kuiper / ˈkaɪ pər / Belt, a rocky region in our solar system past Neptune, but others still assume that it was an interstellar body. Whatever it was, scientists nonetheless agree that it was not a threat.
Scientists have long been interested in interstellar research, with some studies dating back to the 1990s. Among the most recent studies is the Starlight program, which is looking into sending living organisms from Earth into a nearby star system. Scientists are planning to send two kinds of micro-animals: water bears and a species of roundworms.
These micro-animals were chosen because of their ability to survive extreme environments. In fact, the roundworms have previously survived orbiting Earth aboard the International Space Station. Scientists plan to use lasers to shoot the micro-animals into outer space aboard a phone-sized spacecraft.