The name, which was chosen in consultation with Kaʻiu Kimura and Larry Kimura, reflects the way this object is like a scout or messenger sent from the distant past to reach out to the solar system.
Two Hawaiian language experts from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo have named the first interstellar object seen passing through the solar system.The object has been officially given the name ʻOumuamua.
The name, which was chosen in consultation with UH Hilo Hawaiian language experts Kaʻiu Kimura and her uncle Larry Kimura, reflects the way this object is like a scout or messenger sent from the distant past to reach out to the solar system (ʻou means “reach out for” and mua, with the second mua placing emphasis, means “first, in advance of”).
In October, astronomers at the UH Mānoa Institute for Astronomy (IfA) made the stunning discovery of the object with the Pan-STARRS1 telescope. Described as “very strange” by Karen Meech, the lead astronomer of the international team investigating the “visitor,” the object was originally denoted A/2017 U1 (with the A for “asteroid”). But the body is now the first to receive an “I” (for interstellar) designation from the International Astronomical Union, which created the new category after the discovery.
The object’s full official name is 1I/2017 U1 (ʻOumuamua), and can also be correctly referred to as 1I, 1I/2017 U1, and 1I/ʻOumuamua.
ʻOumuamua is rapidly fading as it heads out of the solar system and recedes from both the Sun and Earth, so getting new observations as fast as possible was crucial. The IfA team—including those who discovered 1I—was already prepared to rapidly follow up solar system discoveries from Pan-STARRS, which is operated by IfA and funded by NASA.
“We were able to rapidly develop a follow-up strategy on a very short timescale,” says Meech. “It is exciting to think that the brief visit by ʻOumuamua gave us the opportunity to do the first characterization of a sample from another solar system.”
As a result, Meech’s team is the first to publish their results—“A brief visit from a red and extremely elongated interstellar asteroid”—appearing in the online issue of the journal Nature on Nov. 20.
For more on the discovery and images, read IfA’s news release.
-via UH System News.