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Thursday, December 14, 2017

The first-ever detection of an asteroid from beyond the solar system revealed a remarkable object. About 400 meters long and only 40 meters wide, 'Oumuamua's axis ratio of 10:1 makes it the most elongated asteroid ever discovered. The highest axis ratio we see for asteroids in the solar system is only about 3:1. The odd shape is perhaps a clue about when the asteroid was flung from its own star during the formation of that solar system, or perhaps it can tell us something about what happens to space rocks when they fly through interstellar space for millions of years. Avi Loeb, a professor of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) who has written multiple papers on the search for extraterrestrial life, first brought the unique properties of the object to Yuri Milner's attention, suggesting the object could be artificial.


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Perhaps, just maybe, the object is elongated because it is artificial, the equivalent of a rocket booster or a probe from an advanced extraterrestrial species. Fortunately for the believers, Yuri Milner and Breakthrough Listen are going to point the largest fully-steerable radio telescope in the world, the 100-meter Green Bank Telescope, at the object, which is currently about twice as far away from Earth as the sun.

"This is the first interstellar object to be discovered and its axis ratio is so extreme. Therefore when I first learned about it I started wondering whether it might be an artificially-made probe which was sent by an alien civilization," Loeb wrote in notes about the early observation of 'Oumuamua provided to Popular Mechanics. He goes on to point out that the "Keplerian orbit" of the object, meaning its trajectory can be explained with just the gravitational encounter of the sun, makes it unlikely that the object is a controlled space probe. "Most likely, this is just a large rock, but it is worth checking for any radio signal to be sure." - Avi Loeb


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The GBT observations of 'Oumuamua, which is Hawaiian for "scout," will be valuable to astronomers even if the object turns out to be nothing more than an asteroid. In the first observations, the interstellar rock did not appear to have a cloud of debris following it known as a coma, which suggests it does not have any water ice. The GBT radio observations should be able to determine more accurately whether or not the object has any ice or surrounding debris.

The artist's rendering reminds me of Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke.

#1 | Posted by GOnoles92 at 2017-12-12 10:39 PM | Reply

It's looking for Humped Back Whales.

#2 | Posted by Zed at 2017-12-13 06:27 AM | Reply

If it turns toward the sun we dont have a way to get to it anyway.

#3 | Posted by HanoverFist at 2017-12-13 08:13 AM | Reply

Someone call Bruce Willis and get a drill going.

#4 | Posted by Sycophant at 2017-12-14 11:47 AM | Reply

The artist's rendering reminds me of Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke.


Rama was more round and hollow like a huge coke can or a canister.

Regardless, if it slows down or changes course we better look sharp as we might be having guests for dinner. And I bet I can guess who will be served.

#5 | Posted by donnerboy at 2017-12-14 01:14 PM | Reply

That would be SO bitchin' if it started slowing down as it approached Earth!

#6 | Posted by moder8 at 2017-12-14 02:00 PM | Reply

Looks like one of Sniper's thoughts.

#7 | Posted by mOntecOre at 2017-12-15 12:06 PM | Reply

Has anybody checked if the dolphins are still around?

#8 | Posted by jpw at 2017-12-15 12:17 PM | Reply

did anyone hear really bad poetry in the static between channels on the radio?

#9 | Posted by hatter5183 at 2017-12-15 12:43 PM | Reply

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