(CN) – A newly discovered asteroid in Jupiter’s orbit “immigrated” from another solar system and is orbiting in the opposite direction of nearly everything else in our solar system, according to new astronomical research.
The study was published Monday in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters.
The discovery could help scientists understand questions that are still unanswered, such as how the planets formed and how our solar system evolved.
Last year, an asteroid dubbed “Oumuamua” made headlines when it was observed passing through our solar system.
But that one was just a visitor. The new one, named 2015 BZ509, appears to be a permanent resident.
“If 2015 BZ509 were a native of our system, it should have had the same original direction as all of the other planets and asteroids, inherited from the cloud of gas and dust that formed them,” said Dr. Fathi Namouni, the study’s lead author.
The scientists performed simulations that showed the asteroid has always moved in that particular way, meaning it must have come from another solar system.
The tests tried to track the location of the asteroid to the time when planets in the solar system stopped forming, about 4.5 billion years ago.
Team member Helena Morais of the Universidade Estadual Paulista in Brazil explained that planets’ gravity and the close proximity of stars allow the solar systems to capture asteroids from other systems.
“Asteroid immigration from other star systems occurs because the Sun initially formed in a tightly packed star cluster, where every star had its own system of planets and asteroids,” Morais said.
2015 BZ509 is the first permanent asteroid immigrant discovered in our solar system.