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Did an alien probe enter our solar system? Asteroid Oumuamua could be artificial, extraterrestrial investigators suggest

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  • #1
    Did an alien probe enter our solar system? Asteroid Oumuamua could be artificial, extraterrestrial investigators suggest

    It will either be the greatest discovery humanity has ever made – or just a pretty cool bit of scientific research. Scientists are planning to investigate a mysterious cigar-shaped asteroid which entered our solar system to see if it’s an alien probe. The strange space rock has been named A/2017 U1, or Oumuamua, and is the first asteroid seen arriving in our galactic neighbourhood after speeding through interstellar space – the name for the blank and vast void between stars.
    Read more:

    Our solar system has a visitor. It's cylindrical, dark and reddish, a quarter-mile long. The object won't be staying. This fall, astronomers announced that the thing came blazing into our neck of the galaxy at speeds of up to 196,000 mph. It is now headed away as quickly as it came.

    The object's trajectory is so strange and its speeds are so blistering that it probably did not originate from within our solar system. Its discoverers concluded that the object is a rare interstellar traveler from beyond our solar system, the first object of its kind observed by humans.
    This week, researchers with the Breakthrough Listen initiative announced that a radio telescope will probe 'Oumuamua for signs of technology. The telescope, nestled within the hills of the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia, begins its search on Wednesday.

    “The more I study this object, the more unusual it appears, making me wonder whether it might be an artificially made probe which was sent by an alien civilization,” Avi Loeb, the chair of Harvard’s astronomy department and one of Milner’s advisers on Breakthrough Listen, wrote in the email to Milner.
    Unlike the lumpy, potato-shaped asteroids of our solar system, the 400-meter-long ‘Oumuamua is perhaps 10 times as long as it is wide, an extreme aspect ratio that trumps any of the known asteroids. Astronomers don’t know how the universe could have produced an object such as this. Most natural interactions between an object and its surrounding medium favor the creation of rounded objects, Loeb said, like pebbles on a lakeshore made smooth by lapping water.

    Further observations of ‘Oumuamua revealed it carried no traces of water ice, which suggests the asteroid is made of rock or perhaps metal. Whatever it is, the material is certainly sturdy. ‘Oumuamua rotates about every seven hours, a rate that would likely cause some rocky objects, nicknamed “rubble piles,” to crumble. ‘Oumuamua even survived a close pass with the sun in September, before it was detected, without breaking apart.

    Thanks to its nonspherical shape, the asteroid is tumbling uncontrollably. “If you take an object that isn’t round and you throw it up in the air, it’ll make this complicated spinning motion,” said Jason Wright, an astronomer at Penn State University. “It just doesn’t just spin nicely along one axis.” Wright said a long journey across the cosmos can slow an object’s tumbling, but ‘Oumuamua has shown no signs of stopping its spinning.
    “The explanation that this is a directed probe is, in my view, comically unlikely,” said Konstantin Batygin, a planetary astrophysicist at the California Institute of Technology. “This is just a chunk of debris. I think there’s nothing more to it than that.”

    For now, however, those are just science fiction thrills. “Our observations are entirely consistent with it being a natural object,” said Karen Meech of the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy and leader of the international collaboration that discovered Oumuamua with the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope on Haleakala, Maui.
    Spectral measurements have revealed that Oumuamua is dark red, the color of many moons of the outer solar system on which icy organic molecules have been stained by radiation in outer space. Iron can also contribute that color, Dr. Meech said.

    Last edited by Just Jon; 12-12-2017, 10:18 AM.
    I'm for defending all rights for everyone.


    • #2
      UPDATED on 11/15/17 at 9:15 am PST

      The team from the Pan-STARRS observatory that was the first to detect the interstellar visitor has chosen the name ‘Oumuamua for their discovery. The name is of Hawaiian origin and means a messenger from afar arriving first. Being the first known object of its type, the object also became the first to receive a new series designation from the International Astronomical Union (IAU), which assigns designations to astronomical objects. The IAU has announced the permanent designation of the interstellar object is “1I/2017 U1.” In this first-of-its-kind IAU designation, the "I" stands for interstellar.

      Original release issued Oct. 26, 2017

      A small, recently discovered asteroid -- or perhaps a comet -- appears to have originated from outside the solar system, coming from somewhere else in our galaxy. If so, it would be the first "interstellar object" to be observed and confirmed by astronomers.

      This unusual object – for now designated A/2017 U1 – is less than a quarter-mile (400 meters) in diameter and is moving remarkably fast. Astronomers are urgently working to point telescopes around the world and in space at this notable object. Once these data are obtained and analyzed, astronomers may know more about the origin and possibly composition of the object.

      A/2017 U1 was discovered Oct. 19 by the University of Hawaii's Pan-STARRS 1 telescope on Haleakala, Hawaii, during the course of its nightly search for near-Earth objects for NASA. Rob Weryk, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy (IfA), was first to identify the moving object and submit it to the Minor Planet Center. Weryk subsequently searched the Pan-STARRS image archive and found it also was in images taken the previous night, but was not initially identified by the moving object processing.

      Weryk immediately realized this was an unusual object. "Its motion could not be explained using either a normal solar system asteroid or comet orbit," he said. Weryk contacted IfA graduate Marco Micheli, who had the same realization using his own follow-up images taken at the European Space Agency's telescope on Tenerife in the Canary Islands. But with the combined data, everything made sense. Said Weryk, "This object came from outside our solar system."

      "This is the most extreme orbit I have ever seen," said Davide Farnocchia, a scientist at NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "It is going extremely fast and on such a trajectory that we can say with confidence that this object is on its way out of the solar system and not coming back."

      The CNEOS team plotted the object's current trajectory and even looked into its future. A/2017 U1 came from the direction of the constellation Lyra, cruising through interstellar space at a brisk clip of 15.8 miles (25.5 kilometers) per second.

      The object approached our solar system from almost directly "above" the ecliptic, the approximate plane in space where the planets and most asteroids orbit the Sun, so it did not have any close encounters with the eight major planets during its plunge toward the Sun. On Sept. 2, the small body crossed under the ecliptic plane just inside of Mercury's orbit and then made its closest approach to the Sun on Sept. 9. Pulled by the Sun's gravity, the object made a hairpin turn under our solar system, passing under Earth's orbit on Oct. 14 at a distance of about 15 million miles (24 million kilometers) -- about 60 times the distance to the Moon. It has now shot back up above the plane of the planets and, travelling at 27 miles per second (44 kilometers per second) with respect to the Sun, the object is speeding toward the constellation Pegasus.

      "We have long suspected that these objects should exist, because during the process of planet formation a lot of material should be ejected from planetary systems. What's most surprising is that we've never seen interstellar objects pass through before," said Karen Meech, an astronomer at the IfA specializing in small bodies and their connection to solar system formation.

      The small body has been assigned the temporary designation A/2017 U1 by the Minor Planet Center (MPC) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where all observations on small bodies in our solar system -- and now those just passing through -- are collected. Said MPC Director Matt Holman, "This kind of discovery demonstrates the great scientific value of continual wide-field surveys of the sky, coupled with intensive follow-up observations, to find things we wouldn't otherwise know are there."

      Since this is the first object of its type ever discovered, rules for naming this type of object will need to be established by the International Astronomical Union.

      "We have been waiting for this day for decades," said CNEOS Manager Paul Chodas. "It's long been theorized that such objects exist -- asteroids or comets moving around between the stars and occasionally passing through our solar system -- but this is the first such detection. So far, everything indicates this is likely an interstellar object, but more data would help to confirm it."

      The Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) is a wide-field survey observatory operated by the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy. The Minor Planet Center is hosted by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and is a sub-node of NASA's Planetary Data System Small Bodies Node at the University of Maryland ( ). JPL hosts the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). All are projects of NASA's Near-Earth Object Observations Program, and elements of the agency's Planetary Defense Coordination Office within NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

      More information about asteroids and near-Earth objects can be found at:

      For more information about NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office, visit:

      For asteroid and comet news and updates, follow AsteroidWatch on Twitter:

      DC Agle
      Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

      Laurie Cantillo / Dwayne Brown
      NASA Headquarters, Washington
      202-358-1077 / 202-358-1726 /

      Roy Gal
      University of Hawaii, Institute for Astronomy


      Last Updated: Nov. 17, 2017
      Editor: Tony Greicius

      I believe NASA is supposed to make an announcement today about something related to the object.
      I'm for defending all rights for everyone.


      • #3
        That thing came out of nowhere and is heading back out to nowhere, who know what it is.


        • #4
          the name for the blank and vast void between stars.

          Pete (wonders who needed that clarification)


          • #5
            Originally posted by Danisr1 View Post
            That thing came out of nowhere and is heading back out to nowhere, who know what it is.
            The fact that it is an interstellar object and just so happens to be so unusually shaped is what intrigues people. It's shaped with the proportions that we expect a spacecraft to be shaped. However, it appears to be similarly colored to rocky objects in our own solar system. I'm really curious to find out if any kind of emissions are detected. I would love to believe it is some kind of spacecraft, but we can't make that assumption yet.
            I'm for defending all rights for everyone.


            • #6

              I'm for defending all rights for everyone.


              • #7
                Rendezvous with Rama.

                AC Clark was a prophet.
                They speak in bulletpointese leftist nutjob drivel. It doesn't matter. Nothing is as great a motivator as the chance to truly be free.
                -Mr. Raceboy


                • #8
                  Except we don't have the means to rendezvous with Oumuamua yet. We know it's general trajectory, though, so in a few hundred years, when we have the space-faring means, we can probably find it again. That is, if the aliens who sent the probe haven't annihilated us before then...
                  I'm for defending all rights for everyone.


                  • #9

                    The radio telescope will be examining Oumuamua today. We'll see if they find anything.
                    I'm for defending all rights for everyone.


                    • #10
                      So aliens sent a giant dildo to probe us?
                      "Democracy is a form of worship. It is the worship of jackals by jackasses." H.L. Mencken


                      • #11
                        Originally posted by Mr. Raceboy View Post
                        So aliens sent a giant dildo to probe us?
                        Us? No, man. Just you.
                        I'm for defending all rights for everyone.


                        • #12
                          Can we send a spacecraft to catch Oumuamua? Not yet.

                          The short answer is, unfortunately, we are too late now with our existing technology. Although 'Oumuamua is moving at a velocity of 26km/s, factoring in Earth's velocity vector, the delta-v between a spacecraft in Earth orbit and the object is closer to 60km/s. "Chemical propulsion just doesn’t close the case in this scenario," Rogers said. "It’s not feasible."
                          I'm for defending all rights for everyone.


                          • #13
                            that reality-show contestant who just lost her White House job is an asteroid? Twist!!
                            For every ailment under the sun - There is a remedy, or there is none;
                            If there be one, try to find it; If there be none, never mind it. -- Mother Goose

                            "We've always assumed that you can't bring back the dead. But it's a matter of when you pickle the cells." -- Peter Rhee


                            • #14
                              I'm still not seeing news about any findings from the radio telescope observation yesterday.
                              I'm for defending all rights for everyone.


                              • #15
                                Maybe it was an anal probe.
                                "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect." –Mark Twain