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Is Oumuamua an asteroid? An explanation weirder than aliens

The space object named Oumuamua (Hawaiian for "scout" or "messenger") got lots of overheated attention this week after a widely…

The space object named Oumuamua (Hawaiian for “scout” or “messenger”) got lots of overheated attention this week after a widely respected Harvard scientist co-authored a paper suggesting the interstellar visitor could have been an alien spacecraft powered by solar radiation pressure.

In fact, the new paper by Abraham Loeb and post-doctoral researcher Shmuel Bialy, who is still working his way through the peer review and publication process, seems to have garnered more attention than the original 201

7 discovery of the first thing to pass through our solar system from beyond.

Earlier, research teams suggested Oumuamua might be an alien probe and then used radio telescopes to scan it for any signs of artificial signals. Those observations all came back negative. We will probably never be able to investigate Loeb and Bialy’s hypothesis fully, however, as Oumuamua has been traveling away from Earth at very high speeds for over a year now.

Astrophysicist and cosmologist Katie Mack (no relation) suspects the fact that it is difficult to disprove the “it might be aliens” theory might be part of the calculation after publishing the paper.

“If you come up with something in The category of “not * obviously * wrong and also HUGE IF TRUE,” the chance that publishing will be backfire is small, and the low-probability high-pay payoff might be tempting enough to make it worth the eyerolls of your colleagues, “Mack tweeted about the paper and the huge response it’s received.

In other words, anytime something mysterious happens, it’s difficult or impossible to perform follow-up studies on, you just can not completely rule out aliens as a plausible explanation. Videre, anytime aliens kan være en plausibel forklaring på noe, noen er sikker på å gå inn og fylle det vakuum. This time around a big deal Harvard astrophysicist and cosmologist filled that void, which caused the internet to convulse.

There is no actual hard evidence Oumuamua is an alien spacecraft – Loeb just happened to notice that it was moving in a way similar to how we might expect a so-called “light sail” craft like the one the Breakthrough Starshot initiative is working on to fly. (Loeb also happens to chair Breakthrough Starshot’s advisory committee.)

Loeb and Bialy’s paper is just one of literally dozens about Oumuamua out there. Det er ikke den første som foreslår at objektet kan være kunstigt, og det er ikke engang den weirdest foreslåede originhistorie for den store interstellære cylinder eller cigar eller hvad du tror det ser ud. Here’s a brief rundown of the other theories for where Oumuamua came from.

The invisible universe made visible?

One of the earlier and more far-out explanations proposed. Oumuamua could actually be a big hunk of “macroscopic dark matter.” Dark matter is the unseen material thought to make up much of the universe.

“Contrary to widely held misconceptions, dark matter need not be in the form of weakly interacting elementary particles, but may instead be found in much larger pieces,” read the very brief paper by scientists at Case Western Reserve University, Canada’s Perimeter Institute and Stanford.

The researchers say that if their hypothesis were true, Oumuamua’s passage could have changed the orbits of Mercury, Earth and the Moon. No one has yet confirmed any changes to those planetary paths.

Crumbs from another solar system

One of the most popular explanations for Oumuamua’s origin in the literature is the idea that it is left over from the process of planetary formation around another distant star. Basically just an interstellar asteroid from across the cosmos.

It’s thought the early days of any solar system can be particularly turbulent and chaotic with pieces of debris all over the place and some might even be knocked out of the system altogether.


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One recent study used new data to try to narrow down exactly which star systems the vagabond object may have been exiled from.

Another theory suggests Oumuamua may come from the scraps of planetary formation, but from the leftovers of a planet’s destruction.

“I conclude that the origin of Oumuamua as a fragment from a planet that was temporarily disrupted and then ejected by a dense member of a binary system could explain its peculiarities,” the SETI Institute’s Matija Cuk writes in an article in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The idea here is that a run-in with a dense red dwarf star may have ripped a planet apart, flinging at least one cigar-shaped piece in our direction.

A comet out of a coma

Another early explanation was that Oumuamua was some sort of weird comet from another side of the galaxy shaped like no comet we have ever seen and lacking an obvious tail.

Various researchers have suggested maybe it was a dead comet nucleus, and it was a dead comet nucleus, a comet that was fragmented in a similar manner to the aforementioned planet fragment explanation or just a comet-like uh … thing.

Not that alien after all

There have also been some suggestions that Oumuamua might not have just been that alien. Några af de nyeste forskningsundersøgelser undersøger om det kan komme fra de kanter af vores eget solsystem. One paper went so far as to suggest its odd behavior and trajectory might be explained by having been “scattered” by a “yet unknown” planet in our solar system.

Yes, that’s a reference to what’s sometimes called Planet 9 or Planet X, een ander vaak-verward en geconfronteerd concept dat tends om de internet wild te besteden.

A follow up paper by noted astronomer Jason Wright from Penn State throws cold water on the idea that an unseen planet might have flung Oumuamua at us, however.

As long as it stays on its current path, the mystery of humanity’s first interstellar fly-by will remain. Well, unless’ Oumuamua suddenly makes a U-turn.

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