Scientists around the world are watching its journey, hoping to glean as much information as they can before it gets too far away.
“We are just scrambling right now to secure big telescope time, prepare our observations and download the data,” said Karen Meech, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy. Because the object came from outside our solar system, it may be made up of completely different material than the asteroids and comets that we have studied. She and other astronomers think that in the next few weeks they will have more insight into the composition and size of A/2017 U1, and in time, where exactly it came from.
Dr. Meech noted that scientists did not have much warning about this object when it came into the solar system because it was blocked by the brightness of the sun. It very much came without warning, she said.
But there is no need to panic, said Lindley Johnson, NASA’s planetary defense officer. In the realm of things that could hit Earth and obliterate our existences, an interstellar Armageddon is pretty low on the list.
“The near-earth asteroids are many times, hundreds of thousands of times, more likely to occur, and even those are extremely rare events,” Mr. Johnson said. “It’s really nothing that people should worry about. I certainly don’t lie awake worrying about it.”