Did we just rendezvous with Rama?

Matthew Wright

An asteroid was discovered last week by astronomers using the University of Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS 1 telescope. It’s moving at a tremendous clip – and is on its way out of our solar system after whipping through on a trajectory that took it inside the orbit of Mercury.

The Minor Planets Centre at Cambridge, Massachussets, has given it the official designation A/2017 U1, though doubtless it’ll be officially named. It’s thought to be about 400 metres in diameter. It’ll certainly be a lifeless chunk of rock, dust or ices – but it’s from interstellar space, and there’s a good chance that some science will come out of that. The sort of information we can get is priceless, because everything in our solar system was formed from much the same mix of isotopes – the ones present in the primordial dust cloud. Other stellar dust clouds have slightly different mixes – which…

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