2017 November 22
'Oumuamua: Interstellar Asteroid
European Southern Observatory,
Nothing like it has ever been seen before.
The unusual space rock
is so intriguing mainly because it is the
first asteroid ever detected from outside our
Solar System --
although likely many more are to follow given modern computer-driven sky monitoring.
Therefore humanity's telescopes -- of nearly every variety -- have put
into their observing schedule to help better understand this unusual
Pictured is an
artist's illustration of what
might look like up close.
'Oumuamua is also intriguing, however, because it has unexpected parallels to
a famous fictional interstellar spaceship created by the late science fiction writer
Arthur C. Clarke.
Like Rama, 'Oumuamua is
should be made of strong material to avoid breaking apart, is
only passing through our Solar System,
and passed unusually close to the Sun for something gravitationally unbound.
Unlike a visiting spaceship, though, 'Oumuamua's
speed, color, and even
probability of detection
are consistent with it forming naturally around a
normal star many millions of years ago,
being expelled after gravitationally encountering a
and subsequently orbiting in our Galaxy alone.
likely conventional origin, perhaps
humanity can hold hope that one day we will have the technology to engineer 'Oumuamua -- or another Solar System interloper -- into an interstellar Rama of our own.