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posted by janrinok on Wednesday December 13 2017, @01:39PM   Printer-friendly
from the listening-for-the-little-green-men dept.

'Oumuamua's interstellar origin and unusually elongated shape has been enough to convince the billionaire-backed Breakthrough Listen to observe it to look for signs of alien technology:

The team's efforts will begin on Wednesday, with astronomers observing the asteroid, which is currently speeding away from our Solar System, across four different radio frequency bands. The first set of observations is due to last for 10 hours.

[...] Mr Milner's Breakthrough Listen programme released a statement which read: "Researchers working on long-distance space transportation have previously suggested that a cigar or needle shape is the most likely architecture for an interstellar spacecraft, since this would minimise friction and damage from interstellar gas and dust."

Andrew Siemion, director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center, who is part of the initiative, said: "'Oumuamua's presence within our Solar System affords Breakthrough Listen an opportunity to reach unprecedented sensitivities to possible artificial transmitters and demonstrate our ability to track nearby, fast-moving objects." He added: "Whether this object turns out to be artificial or natural, it's a great target for Listen."

Previously: Possible Interstellar Asteroid/Comet Enters Solar System
Interstellar Asteroid Named: Oumuamua
ESO Observations Show First Interstellar Asteroid is Like Nothing Seen Before


Original Submission

Related Stories

Possible Interstellar Asteroid/Comet Enters Solar System 45 comments

Astronomer Rob Weryk has identified what appears to be the first interstellar object to enter (and soon exit) the solar system. The object, provisionally designated A/2017 U1, is estimated to be 400 meters in diameter:

A/2017 U1 was discovered Oct. 19 by the University of Hawaii's Pan-STARRS 1 telescope on Haleakala, Hawaii, during the course of its nightly search for near-Earth objects for NASA. Rob Weryk, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy (IfA), was first to identify the moving object and submit it to the Minor Planet Center. Weryk subsequently searched the Pan-STARRS image archive and found it also was in images taken the previous night, but was not initially identified by the moving object processing.

[...] "This is the most extreme orbit I have ever seen," said Davide Farnocchia, a scientist at NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "It is going extremely fast and on such a trajectory that we can say with confidence that this object is on its way out of the solar system and not coming back."

The CNEOS team plotted the object's current trajectory and even looked into its future. A/2017 U1 came from the direction of the constellation Lyra, cruising through interstellar space at a brisk clip of 15.8 miles (25.5 kilometers) per second.

The object approached our solar system from almost directly "above" the ecliptic, the approximate plane in space where the planets and most asteroids orbit the Sun, so it did not have any close encounters with the eight major planets during its plunge toward the Sun. On Sept. 2, the small body crossed under the ecliptic plane just inside of Mercury's orbit and then made its closest approach to the Sun on Sept. 9. Pulled by the Sun's gravity, the object made a hairpin turn under our solar system, passing under Earth's orbit on Oct. 14 at a distance of about 15 million miles (24 million kilometers) -- about 60 times the distance to the Moon. It has now shot back up above the plane of the planets and, travelling at 27 miles per second (44 kilometers per second) with respect to the Sun, the object is speeding toward the constellation Pegasus.

"We have long suspected that these objects should exist, because during the process of planet formation a lot of material should be ejected from planetary systems. What's most surprising is that we've never seen interstellar objects pass through before," said Karen Meech, an astronomer at the IfA specializing in small bodies and their connection to solar system formation.

Here is a direct link to an animation of the object's passage.


Original Submission

Interstellar Asteroid Named: Oumuamua 11 comments

The solar system's first "interstellar interloper" has been named 1I/ʻOumuamua. It is the first known "hyperbolic asteroid" from outside the solar system:

The first known asteroid to visit our Solar System from interstellar space has been given a name. Scientists who have studied its speed and trajectory believe it originated in a planetary system around another star.

The interstellar interloper will now be referred to as 'Oumuamua, which means "a messenger from afar arriving first" in Hawaiian. The name reflects the object's discovery by a Hawaii-based astronomer using an observatory on Maui. It was discovered on 19 October this year by Rob Weryk, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy.

[...] Scientists who have made observations of 'Oumuamua, say that despite its exotic origins, the asteroid is familiar in appearance. In a paper submitted to Astrophysical Journal Letters, they argue that its size, rotation, and reddish colour are similar to those of asteroids in our Solar System. Measuring about 180m by 30m, it resembles a chunky cigar.

"The most remarkable thing about ['Oumuamua'] is that, except for its shape, how familiar and physically unremarkable it is," said co-author Jayadev Rajagopal from the US National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO).

Also at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory and Scientific American.

Previously: Possible Interstellar Asteroid/Comet Enters Solar System


Original Submission

ESO Observations Show First Interstellar Asteroid is Like Nothing Seen Before 20 comments

For the first time ever astronomers have studied an asteroid that has entered the Solar System from interstellar space. Observations from ESO's Very Large Telescope in Chile and other observatories around the world show that this unique object was traveling through space for millions of years before its chance encounter with our star system. It appears to be a dark, reddish, highly-elongated rocky or high-metal-content object. The new results appear in the journal Nature on 20 November 2017.

On 19 October 2017, the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawai`i picked up a faint point of light moving across the sky. It initially looked like a typical fast-moving small asteroid, but additional observations over the next couple of days allowed its orbit to be computed fairly accurately. The orbit calculations revealed beyond any doubt that this body did not originate from inside the Solar System, like all other asteroids or comets ever observed, but instead had come from interstellar space. Although originally classified as a comet, observations from ESO and elsewhere revealed no signs of cometary activity after it passed closest to the Sun in September 2017. The object was reclassified as an interstellar asteroid and named 1I/2017 U1 (`Oumuamua)[1].

"We had to act quickly," explains team member Olivier Hainaut from ESO in Garching, Germany. "`Oumuamua had already passed its closest point to the Sun and was heading back into interstellar space."

... [1] The Pan-STARRS team’s proposal to name the interstellar objet[sic] was accepted by the International Astronomical Union, which is responsible for granting official names to bodies in the Solar System and beyond. The name is Hawaiian and more details are given here. The IAU also created a new class of objects for interstellar asteroids, with this object being the first to receive this designation. The correct forms for referring to this object are now: 1I, 1I/2017 U1, 1I/`Oumuamua and 1I/2017 U1 (`Oumuamua). Note that the character before the O is an okina. So, the name should sound like H O u mu a mu a. Before the introduction of the new scheme, the object was referred to as A/2017 U1.

http://eso.org/public/news/eso1737

-- submitted from IRC. See also here.


Original Submission

Breakthrough Listen Expands CSIRO Parkes Radio Telescope Survey to Encompass Millions of Stars 3 comments

Breakthrough Listen has massively expanded its survey of stars using the CSIRO Parkes Radio Telescope in Australia:

Breakthrough Listen – the initiative to find signs of intelligent life in the universe – announced today that a survey of millions of stars located in the plane of our Galaxy, using the CSIRO Parkes Radio Telescope ("Parkes") in New South Wales, Australia, has commenced. Listen observations at Parkes began in November 20161, targeting a sample consisting mostly of stars within a few light years of Earth. Now, observations have expanded to cover a huge swath of the Milky Way visible from the site.

The expanded survey is made possible by new capabilities installed at Parkes by Breakthrough Listen: new digital instrumentation capable of recording the huge data rates from the Parkes "multibeam" receiver. The previous receivers used by Listen only observed a single point on the sky at a time, and were used to perform a detailed search of stars near to the Sun for evidence of extraterrestrial technology. In contrast, the multibeam receiver has 13 beams, enabling a fast survey of large areas of the sky, covering all of the Galactic Plane visible from the site.

Even if Breakthrough Listen doesn't find aliens, it is throwing a lot of well-deserved cash at astronomers and upgrading the capabilities of their telescopes.

Also at Space.com and USA Today.

Breakthrough Listen: Stephen Hawking and Yuri Milner Announce $100 Million "Breakthrough Listen" SETI Project
"Breakthrough Listen" to Search for Alien Radio Transmissions Near Tabby's Star
Breakthrough Listen to Observe Interstellar Asteroid 'Oumuamua for Radio Emissions

CSIRO Parkes: Famous Australian 'Dish' Radio Telescope to be Emptied in Budget Crisis: CSIRO
Milky Way Obscures Hundreds of Previously Undiscovered Galaxies
New Fast Radio Burst Discovery Finds 'Missing Matter' in the Universe


Original Submission

Oumuamua Likely Originated in the Local Association (Pleiades Moving Group) 10 comments

The interstellar asteroid 'Oumuamua's likely movements have been tracked based on the relative positions of nearby stars. Observations of 'Oumuamua indicate that it has only been subjected to interstellar conditions (cosmic rays, gas, dust) for hundreds of millions of years rather than billions. There are likely to be around 46 million such interstellar objects entering the solar system every year, most of which are too far away to be seen with current telescopes, and are quickly ejected:

[My (Fabo Feng)] latest study gives us a glimpse of exactly where 'Oumuamua may have come from. Reconstructing the object's motion, my research suggests it probably came from the nearby "Pleiades moving group" of young stars, also known as the "Local Association". It was likely ejected from its home solar system and sent out to travel interstellar space.

Based on 'Oumuamua's trajectory, I simulated how it has probably travelled through the galaxy and compared this to the motions of nearby stars. I found the object passed 109 stars within a distance of 16 light years. It went by five of these stars from in the Local Association (a group of young stars likely to have formed together), at a very slow speed relative to their movement.

It's likely that when 'Oumuamua was first ejected into space, it was travelling at just enough speed to break away from the gravity of its planet or star of origin, rather than at a much faster speed that would require even more energy. This means we'd expect the object to move relatively slowly at the start of its interstellar journey, and so its slow encounters with these five stars suggests it was ejected from one of the group.

Pleiades star cluster. "Code and results" for the arXiv paper.

We should capture as many interstellar asteroids as possible and smash them together to create a new dwarf planet near the Earth.

Previously: Possible Interstellar Asteroid/Comet Enters Solar System
Interstellar Asteroid Named: Oumuamua
ESO Observations Show First Interstellar Asteroid is Like Nothing Seen Before
Breakthrough Listen to Observe Interstellar Asteroid 'Oumuamua for Radio Emissions (none were found)


Original Submission

Retrograde Jupiter Co-Orbital Asteroid May Have an Interstellar Origin 11 comments

Astronomers have posited an interstellar origin for (514107) 2015 BZ509, the first example of a retrograde co-orbital asteroid with one of the solar system's planets (Jupiter):

An asteroid in Jupiter's orbit [Note: actually orbiting the Sun and crossing the orbit of Jupiter] may have come from outside our Solar System, according to a new study. Unlike 'Oumuamua, the interstellar object which briefly visited the Solar System earlier this year, 2015 BZ509 (affectionately known as BZ) seems to have been here for 4.5 billion years. This makes it the first known interstellar asteroid to have taken up residence orbiting the Sun.

It is not yet known where the object came from. "That's what we need to figure out next," laughs Dr Fathi Namouni from the Universite Cote d'Azur, one of the study's authors. "Because 'Oumuamua was just passing by... it's not that difficult to go back and pinpoint where it came from," he told BBC News. "BZ reached the Solar System when it was forming, when the planets themselves were not exactly where they are now. So it's a little more tricky to figure out where it came from."

Also at Scientific American, Science News, EarthSky, and CNN.

An interstellar origin for Jupiter's retrograde co-orbital asteroid (open, DOI: 10.1093/mnrasl/sly057) (DX)

Related: Possible Interstellar Asteroid/Comet Enters Solar System
Interstellar Asteroid Named: 'Oumuamua
ESO Observations Show First Interstellar Asteroid is Like Nothing Seen Before
Breakthrough Listen to Observe Interstellar Asteroid 'Oumuamua for Radio Emissions (none were found)
'Oumuamua Likely Originated in the Local Association (Pleiades Moving Group)


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by takyon on Wednesday December 13 2017, @02:37PM (7 children)

    by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Wednesday December 13 2017, @02:37PM (#609217) Journal

    If this thing can come into our solar system, faster and harder to detect than any of the dangerous NEOs, what's stopping a 100 km asteroid or 1,000+ km rogue planet from smashing into Earth? Absolutely nothing!

    --
    [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
    • (Score: 5, Informative) by Immerman on Wednesday December 13 2017, @03:16PM (4 children)

      by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @03:16PM (#609228)

      Mostly the fact that we're an infinitesimally small target floating in a mind-boggling vast void. Seriously - you could fit massive Jupiter, along with all the other gas giants and rocky planets in the solar system end to end between Earth and the moon with room to spare - and that's just our own backyard.

      Throw a dart at the ring swept out by Earth over the course of a year - i.e just the places that the Earth *might* be, and your odds of actually hitting the planet are about 0.0011%. And that ring is itself a minuscule target, just the outer 0.016% of the circle our orbit makes around the sun. And that's before you even consider that the odds of a random wander passing through that ring at all are vanishingly small - most will pass far above or below our orbit.

      As for seeing it coming - anything as large as you're talking would be *far* easier to spot than this thing. At it's largest cross-section, Oumuamua is only about 180x30m, a 100 km asteroid would appear roughly 2,000,000x bigger, and probably at least that much brighter and easier to spot. (since Oumuamua is dark red, typical of outer solar-system objects) Plus, anything native to our solar system would be moving much slower.

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by takyon on Wednesday December 13 2017, @03:20PM (2 children)

        by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Wednesday December 13 2017, @03:20PM (#609230) Journal

        A black hole could fling the object towards Earth at relativistic speeds!

        --
        [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
        • (Score: 5, Informative) by Immerman on Wednesday December 13 2017, @03:35PM (1 child)

          by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @03:35PM (#609236)

          Only if it already had relativistic speed before we involved the black hole - basic orbital dynamics means that no matter how fast something goes on the flyby, by the time it leaves it's going just as slow as it arrived. You can cheat a little slingshotting around moving objects like planets, stealing some of their orbital momentum, but while that's theoretically possible around stellar objects you'd pretty much need an intentionally designed flightpath to do any good, and there just aren't that many stars that are moving a lot faster than the herd.

          A nice N-body clusterfsck might give yo a nice boost, but you're still not getting anywhere close to relativistic speeds on the dismount. Not unless you slingshotted around a blackhole that was already orbitting another black hole at relativistic speeds - and without doing the math I suspect that situation only occurs very briefly when they're about to merge. Years? Minutes? I don't know, but it won't be long. At those speeds the system will be radiating orbital energy as gravity waves at a phenomenal rate.

      • (Score: 4, Insightful) by DeathMonkey on Wednesday December 13 2017, @06:45PM

        by DeathMonkey (1380) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @06:45PM (#609315) Journal

        Additionally, those gas giants make good planet-buster-magnets.

    • (Score: 2) by deadstick on Wednesday December 13 2017, @03:33PM (1 child)

      by deadstick (5110) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @03:33PM (#609235)

      Ummm, what did you expect would stop it?

      • (Score: 3, Funny) by Thexalon on Wednesday December 13 2017, @07:49PM

        by Thexalon (636) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @07:49PM (#609333) Homepage

        Bruce Willis and the rest of a rag-tag bunch of heroes, of course!

        --
        A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of bad gravy.
  • (Score: 3, Informative) by JeanCroix on Wednesday December 13 2017, @03:39PM (3 children)

    by JeanCroix (573) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @03:39PM (#609238)
    If they detect anything, we better rename it Rama and send a ship after it for a rendezvous, pronto.
    • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Wednesday December 13 2017, @05:34PM (2 children)

      by Freeman (732) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @05:34PM (#609285) Journal

      The sheer amount of money and time it would take to do that makes your suggestion likely impossible.

      --
      "I said in my haste, All men are liars." Psalm 116:11
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @05:51PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @05:51PM (#609294)
        Indeed, Sheldon. Indeed.
      • (Score: 2) by NotSanguine on Wednesday December 13 2017, @09:01PM

        by NotSanguine (285) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 13 2017, @09:01PM (#609376) Homepage Journal

        The sheer amount of money and time it would take to do that makes your suggestion likely impossible.

        Apparently, you're unfamiliar with this [wikipedia.org]. I recommend it.

        --
        No, no, you're not thinking; you're just being logical. --Niels Bohr
  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by termigator on Wednesday December 13 2017, @05:44PM (1 child)

    by termigator (4271) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @05:44PM (#609289)

    This post has convinced me that downstyle should be used. Not knowing about "Breakthrough Listen", I was getting grammatical parsing errors reading the headline.

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by PiMuNu on Wednesday December 13 2017, @06:20PM

    by PiMuNu (3823) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @06:20PM (#609308)

    The evidence for the asteroid shape is pretty flimsy. It is all based on brightness oscillation (not direct observation). It seems quite plausible that one side of the asteroid is more diffusive than the other (e..g due to surface roughness), so when the asteroid rotates it makes a different brightness. Seems far more likely than phallus shape proposed.

  • (Score: 2) by legont on Thursday December 14 2017, @01:32AM

    by legont (4179) on Thursday December 14 2017, @01:32AM (#609530)

    It's the same Milner - early investor in Twitter and Facebook - allegedly using Putin's money.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/05/world/yuri-milner-facebook-twitter-russia.html [nytimes.com]

    --
    "Wealth is the relentless enemy of understanding" - John Kenneth Galbraith.
  • (Score: 2) by KritonK on Thursday December 14 2017, @09:37AM

    by KritonK (465) on Thursday December 14 2017, @09:37AM (#609632)

    If the object is speeding away from our solar system, and assuming that it is a spaceship, why would it be broadcasting? It is unlikely that it would be communicating with its home planet, and, assuming it wanted to communicate with any possible inhabitants of our solar system, it would have done so on the way in. Not having received an answer, it would have assumed that our solar system is uninhabited, inhabited by primitives or inhabited by people not interested in communicating with them, and would have moved on. Now that they are leaving, it is we, who should be contacting them.

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