Back in October of 2017, the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System at the University of Hawaii saw a curious object in the night sky. At first, astronomers thought it was just a comet. But the passing object did not have the characteristics of a comet, like the familiar tail that is observed when these icy balls made up of rock, dust, and frozen gas become flatulent as they get closer to the Sun.
Astronomers then considered the object might be an asteroid. But this odd visitor wasn’t slowing down as much as their calculations predicted. It was actually speeding away from Earth at 85,700 miles per hour and would never return. Scientists realized that it was vitally important to get as much data as possible and as quickly as possible. So the race was on. Several large Earth-bound telescopes swiftly turned their attention to the object and they were soon joined by NASA’s space telescopes Spitzer and Hubble.