I was intrigued by the news about Oumuamua, the first known interstellar body passing through our solar system. Flying at a tremendous speed, Oumuamua’s trajectory was hyperbolic, and it took it out of our solar system within just a few weeks. As the object doesn’t seem to have had any gravitational encounters with our planets, and as it entered the plain of our solar system from above, Oumuamua most likely came from interstellar space, and may have been traveling for several billion years before reaching our solar system. Our civilization was caught by surprise as this asteroid visited us, the very first object known to arrive from deep space and do a loop around the sun; the sun’s gravity field altered its course. It appears to come from another star, I suspect a giant explosion may have expelled it from another stellar system. The name Oumuamua is Hawaiian for “scout”, yet this object didn’t transmit any signals, so, most likely, this isn’t an extraterrestrial rocket filled with little spacemen. Originally, it was thought that the object had an unusually elongated shape, but now we know that it actually looked more like a disk. The core seems to be icy, but the surface consists of red grey dust that has collected over millions of years and which has turned into a hard layer under the merciless radiation levels of interstellar space. Also read this blogpost “Why humanity may never be able to conquer space.”
Our Universe continues to surprise: billions and billions of stars and billions of exoplanets fill this huge (and ever-growing) space. With a visitor such Oumuamua passing by, the overwhelming size of the Universe and the insignificance of our little planet is suddenly pulled into perspective. On the grand scale of things, all our worries or our (mis-)fortunes do not matter much. This thought is humbling, and with Oumuamua having left our solar system and continuing its journey into the vastness of space, we must thank this intriguing object for giving us pause to remind us of our smallness.
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Originally posted 2017-12-23 22:18:31.