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A Billion Years In Interstellar Space: What We Know Today About ‘Oumuamua

16 Jan 2019, 15:01 UTC
A Billion Years In Interstellar Space: What We Know Today About ‘Oumuamua
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Artist’s impression of ʻOumuamua, the first known interstellar object to pass through the Solar System. (ESO / M. KORNMESSER)This is what we’ve learned from first object ever discovered to enter our Solar System from interstellar space.Billions of years ago, our Solar System was an extraordinarily different place from what we know today. Earth had no multicellular lifeforms on it: no plants, no animals, no sexual reproduction. Saturn didn’t yet have its rings, as the collision that destroyed one of its giant moons had not yet occurred. And the asteroid belt was much richer than it is today, full of rocky bodies that have long since been gravitationally ejected into interstellar space.Every Solar System, if we understand how they form correctly, has a similar story. Small, rocky bodies — as well as the ice-dominated ones farther out — will get gravitationally kicked around by the planets and other objects around them. Many of these objects will get ejected, traveling through the galaxy until they randomly enter the vicinity of another, alien solar system. In 2017, for the first time, we detected an object passing through our Solar System that must have originated outside of it: interstellar interloper ‘Oumuamua. Here’s what we ...

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