Before it sails away, first interstellar visitor gets a Hawaiian name

Before it sails away, first interstellar visitor gets a Hawaiian name

HALEAKALA, MAUI - It's official: The celestial body discovered by Hawaii astronomers last month has now received the first "I" designation — for interstellar.

The International Astronomical Union says the object is almost certainly from outside the solar system.

It's also officially been given a name: 'Oumuamua, meant to reflect the way the object is a messenger from a distant past.

('Ou means "reach out for" and "mua" means "in advance of.")

The object was discovered last month by the University of Hawaii's Pan-STARRS 1 telescope on Haleakala during the course of its nightly search for near-Earth objects.

Rob Weryk, a postdoctoral researcher at the UH Institute for Astronomy, identified the moving object and submitted it to the Minor Planet Center.

He subsequently searched the Pan-STARRS image archive and found it was present in images taken the previous night, but was not initially identified.

The object is less than a quarter-mile in diameter, is rotating rapidly, and could be more than 10 times longer than it is wide.

"We have never seen anything in the solar system that is this elongated," said Lance Benner, of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

It's also moving fast. So fast, in fact, that it's quickly fading from view, heading out of the solar system and receding from the sun and Earth.

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