November 7, 2018

Oumuamua.

Are you following Oumuamua — the cigar-shaped object that passed through our solar system last year?
A new paper by researchers at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics raises the possibility that the elongated dark-red object, which is 10 times as long as it is wide and traveling at speeds of 196,000 mph, might have an "artificial origin."

"'Oumuamua may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization," they wrote in the paper, which has been submitted to the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The theory is based on the object's "excess acceleration," or its unexpected boost in speed as it traveled through and ultimately out of our solar system in January....

"I am distinctly unconvinced and honestly think the study is rather flawed," Alan Jackson, fellow at the Centre for Planetary Sciences at the University of Toronto Scarborough, wrote in an email.... 'Oumuamua... travels in a complex tumbling spin, but a functioning solar sail would have a much smoother path and obvious radiation-driven acceleration, Jackson said. Even the spinning motion of a damaged solar sail would be far more strongly influenced by the radiation forces than seen, he explained....

"The thing you have to understand is: scientists are perfectly happy to publish an outlandish idea if it has even the tiniest 'sliver' of a chance of not being wrong," astrophysicist and cosmologist Katherine Mack tweeted. "But until every other possibility has been exhausted dozen times over, even the authors probably don't believe it."

25 comments:

Etienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rehajm said...

Looks like a big poop. Probably what it is...

EDH said...

Are you following Oumuamua — the cigar-shaped object that passed through our solar system last year?

Suddenly, I feel like Monica Lewinsky this morning.

gilbar said...

'Scientist' Kathy 'Mack' said ....
"The thing you have to understand is: scientists are perfectly happy to publish an outlandish idea if it has even the tiniest 'sliver' of a chance of not being wrong,"

And THIS is the fundamental precept of science !!!

Howard said...

That rock is booking

rhhardin said...

And you have a beautiful penis.

I do?

Oh, come on, Frank. Surely people have told you that your entire life.

No.


Well, it's very nice. It's straight, and you would not believe how epidemic a problem that is. Also, it's balletically formed. It's not so big as to ever be a cause for concern, but it's big enough never to be the object of ridicule or scorn. You're in a very sweet spot there.

Destination Wedding (2018)

Kay said...

I had not heard of this. Pretty fascinating, regardless of what the truth might be.

EDH said...

rehajm said...
Looks like a big poop. Probably what it is...

Would you believe... an impacted stool with a flaming orifice at one end?

"It looks like Commodore Decker's 'planet killer'. And it is pursuing us."

tim in vermont said...

When taken with the recent paper that applied quantum style geometry to General Relativity and suggests that there are no such things as singularities and the Big Bang may never have happened and the universe has just always existed with interstellar objects like this, panspermia becomes more plausible.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I think the strongest evidence that it was a probe from an alien civilization was the series text messages we received from it:

Oumuamua -> Heavens Gate

Hey guys...sorry we got delayed, but everything's a go now.
...
Let us know if you are still up for this
...
Hey, anyone there? Helllllooooo?!?

Fernandistein said...

The pic looks like the alien ship in "Lifeforce", which hid behind a comet, so it probably has a damned sexy naked monster on board.

born01930 said...

Moties are real

Unknown said...

It's one of these http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/D/Doomsday_Machine.html

The Cracker Emcee Rampant said...


“'Scientist' Kathy 'Mack' said ....
"The thing you have to understand is: scientists are perfectly happy to publish an outlandish idea if it has even the tiniest 'sliver' of a chance of not being wrong,"

And THIS is the fundamental precept of science !!!”

Welcome to physics. People with a childlike faith in “science” seldom understand that progress is made amid a hail of absurdities and shattering failure.

mandrewa said...

There are two papers about Oumuamua that came out recently and the other paper is also interesting. Scott Manley on YouTube does a decent job of exploring these two papers.

To summarize them briefly, one paper looks at every known physical mechanism by which a comet or asteroid of Oumuamua's size could accelerate while it was in our solar system and came to the conclusion that the only mechanism that they could think of was outgassing, that is the evaporation of volatile gases within the object as it got heated up by approaching the sun.

This seems completely reasonable as this is exactly how and why comets accelerate. Except that there are two problems. (1) Oumuamua seems to have been very elongated, at least four times longer than it was wide. If outgassing was what caused the acceleration then how could this have occurred without changing the spin of the object? As far as we can tell Oumuamua did not change its spin while passing through the solar system. This seems implausible if outgassing was occurring. (2) We would have been able to see the dust carried by the outgassing if this were a comet like the comets in our solar system. We didn't.

This paper is the context for the second paper. The second paper starts with the improbable hypothesis that this is a derelict alien spaceship, a lifeless shell, and therefore much lighter than any plausible natural comet or asteroid. The question the second paper explored was whether the object's movement through the solar system was consistent with it being a derelict spaceship. The answer they came to was that is was consistent. An artificial object that was relatively light could be accelerated by mechanisms other than outgassing, like simply the pressure of light from the sun, in the manner that was observed.

Extraordinary hypotheses require extraordinary proof, or something like that, is one of the informal rules of science. And it's a very good rubric. By that appropriate standard we don't have nearly enough evidence to believe that this was an alien artifact.

It's far more likely that it's something normal that we have failed to think of in the right way.



RK said...

I'm reminded of a great sci-fi trilogy: "The Three Body Problem"

MikeR said...

"Disturbingly long"

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

doesnt Hillary wear a Oumaumau ?

becauseIdbefired said...

It's travelling at .01 "c". Solar sail plans are already on the drawing board with 5 % "c" in the not too distant future. To get to the nearest star would take 3,000 years for the object. To get across the galaxy, would take 1200000000 years.

The most likely explanation is outgassing as the object heated up. If it is a solar sail design, it's not a very good one.

Yancey Ward said...

They should have named it Mandingo.

mandrewa said...

becauseIdbefired, if it were a solar sail we would have been able to see that.

If it was outgassing then why wasn't the spin of the object altered as it passed through the solar system? Given that the object was at least four times longer than it was wide, it seems statistically almost impossible for it to outgas without changing its spin.

Also if it was outgassing why didn't we see dust coming off the object?

John Lynch said...

We don't know the characteristic of natural objects traveling between stars. Seems premature to label something as artificial. Also seems unlikely the first interstellar object we detect would be made by aliens.

The natural world always has a trick up its sleeve.

John Lynch said...

Also, they should have named it Rama.

rcocean said...

196,000 MPH - Do you know how slow that is?

4.2 light years to Alpah Centuri. Light travels at 186,0000 miles per second, Therefor it would take you:

60x60x4 = over 10,000 years. To get to Alpha centuri.

So no, I don't think it was sent by aliens

zincfinger said...

The theory is based on the object's "excess acceleration," or its unexpected boost in speed as it traveled through and ultimately out of our solar system in January....

This is wrong; Oumuamua did not "travel...out of our solar system in January." It's still in our solar system, and will be for several more years. Oumuamua became undetectable by any telescope in January 2018, due to its relatively small size, even though it hadn't passed Jupiter's orbit yet. It won't pass Neptune's orbit for another 3+ years, and will still be in our solar system for awhile thereafter.