All the stars Matthew Knight saw through Arizona's giant telescope were bright and bright. All except for one that seemed to flash in one way-light that went in and out every hour, dull and then bright. He suspected something was wrong with his data. Days earlier, the University of Maryland researcher learned of a strange object in space when discovered by the Pan-STARRS1 telescope in Hawaii.
What he saw was an interstellar object – the first we've ever seen from Earth – stumble through our solar system, turn sunlight, and reflect in pulses.
When it was discovered, many theories about the origin of the object came up. One suspected that it was a foreign civilization that sailed into our solar system. Some researchers thought it possible that the object was a strange awning that relied on the light of the sun to push it through space.
See it up close, "Knight said. "But I think that's a very unlikely possibility."
For a week in late October 2017, data was collected as the object flew through the solar system. Scientists came to the conclusion that the cigar-shaped object named "Oumuamua" is natural. It was not from a foreign civilization. In an article published in the journal Nature Astronomy, 14 scientists, including Knight, wrote that "they found no compelling evidence of an extraterrestrial explanation for Oumuamua, which highlights the dismay of alien hunters everywhere."
uh-moo-uh , the Hawaiian word roughly means "messenger from afar ". Co-author Karen Meech, an astronomer at the Department of Astronomy at the University of Hawaii, asked Hawaiian linguists to name the object after the first week of observation.
The path of the object led the scientists to their origins, proving that it was indeed interstellar – or, in other words, coming from outside our solar system – it simply was not the path an object of our own solar system would take.
"It was not really captured here, it just went through," said Knight, referring to the Gravity of a Solar System Draws an object into orbit. "So it hissed past us, passed the sun and then went out again."
Scientists noticed that & # 39; oumuamua seemed to accelerate unexpectedly. According to Knight, this may have been due to the fact that the object vaporized a comet of ice and gave it a "small kick" upon entering the solar system, but the scientists did not see a gas tail and did not detect ice directly.
Instead, the categorized Scientists term it more generally as planetesimal, which means "Oumuamua is probably" just a vestige of the birth process of another solar system, "Meech said, like a huge boulder that could eventually merge with other space rocks into a planet, but not. After that Scientist The Suspect: & # 39; Oumuamua was expelled from his own solar system.
Now it's on a journey through the galaxy.
"It was only traveling through tempo that cared about his own affairs, and at some point it came so close to our solar system that the gravitational force of our sun began to increase and then it was pulled through, "said Knight.
Once in our solar system. Oumuamua sped and fell within sight. With earth telescopes, Meech's team recorded data for a week. Then, from November 2018 until the first week of January, it was only faintly visible through the Hubble Space Telescope.
The brightness of Oumuamua changed in view as one looked at the narrow side and then the long side. Knight compared it to a bottle of soda.
"If you see the length of it, the cross-section is very large," Knight said. "But if you look at it from below, you only see a narrow area."
Scientists do not know exactly how big Oumuamua is. They could only guess how it reflected the sunlight. Knight said, "Sizes from about [650 feet] to about [3,300 feet] all coincide with known asteroids and comets in our solar system."
In the last 30 years, scientists predicted that objects from another star system could be discovered. In the last 10 years, the technology to search for such weak and fast objects has improved. "Oumuamua is the first, but probably not the last interstellar object to watch. In the next 10 years, scientists could probably see one each year.
In early July, Oumuamua was just above Saturn.
"In the next hundreds of years, it will zoom out of our solar system." Ritter said. "And then someday it will be back in the interstellar space between stars."
How do you read ancient scrolls that are too brittle to unfold? ? An American scientist could have an answer.