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‘Oumuamua: New Data Point to a Comet

27 Jun 2018, 21:02 UTC
‘Oumuamua: New Data Point to a Comet
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

New evidence for the nature of interstellar object ‘Oumuamua is in, making it far more likely that the unusual interloper is a comet rather than an asteroid. The data come from an array of instrumentation — the Hubble Space Telescope, the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, ESO’s Very Large Telescope and the Gemini South Telescope — and show that `Oumuamua is slowing down slightly less than expected. We are talking about a tiny force, about 1/1000 as strong as the pull of the Sun’s gravity, according to this overview of new work in Nature.
The science paper on this work, which also appears in Nature, looks at a variety of possible explanations for the velocity change. The one the authors think most likely is that `Oumuamua (pronounced “oh-MOO-ah-MOO-ah”), now moving at some 114,000 kilometers per hour, has vented material during its pass through our system, behaving the way many comets do. Marco Micheli (ESA), lead author of the paper, puts it this way: “We can see in the data that its boost is getting smaller the farther away it travels from the Sun, which is typical for comets.”
Co-author Karen Meech (University of Hawaii) concurs. It was Meech who led the initial ...

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