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‘Oumuamua: New Work on Interstellar Objects

14 Feb 2018, 17:40 UTC
‘Oumuamua: New Work on Interstellar Objects
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Anomalous objects are a problem — we need more than one to figure them out. One ‘hot Jupiter’ could have been an extreme anomaly, but we went on to find enough of them to realize this was a kind of planet that had a place in our catalog. Or think of those two Kuiper Belt objects that New Horizons imaged, as discussed in yesterday’s post. Soon we’ll have much closer imagery of MU69, but it will take more encounters — and more spacecraft — to begin to fathom the full range of objects that make up the Kuiper Belt. Ultimately, we’d like to see enough KBOs up close to start drawing statistically valid conclusions about the entire population.
So where does the intriguing ‘Oumuamua fit into all this? It was the first interstellar asteroid we’ve been able to look at, even if the encounter was fleeting. A friend asked me, having learned of the Breakthrough Listen SETI monitoring of the object, whether it wasn’t absurd to imagine it could be a craft from another civilization. I could only say that the idea was highly unlikely, but given how little time we had and how rare the object was, how could ...

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