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Space Sci-Fi Science

Interstellar Object 'Oumuamua' Appears To Be Wrapped In An Organic Insulation Layer (theguardian.com) 242

dryriver writes: Oumuamua is the cigar-shaped object -- about 400 meters long and only 40 meters in the other dimensions -- that originated from somewhere else in the Galaxy and visited our Solar system while moving at nearly 130,000 miles per hour. Scientists do not know where Oumuamua came from or what it is made of -- it is not shaped like commonly seen asteroids, and unlike comets, it does not leave a trail behind it, not even when it flew past the Sun. Oumuamua seems to be wrapped in a strange organic coat made of carbon-rich gunk that it likely picked up on its long travels through space. The coat, which gives Oumuamua a dark red appearance according to scientists, was examined by using spectroscopy, which looks at the light being reflected from its surface and splits it down into its wavelengths. By looking at those measurements, scientists can work out what the object might be composed of. Scientists regard it as likely that Oumuamua may be of icy composition on the inside, but that the ice doesn't come off the object due to the thick organic crust that is wrapped around it. Oumuamua has also got extraterrestrial watchers excited. Some believe that its strange, long shape suggests that it is a spaceship of some sort passing through our Solar system. Whatever Oumuamua turns out to be, it certainly has researchers and space watchers around the world fascinated and puzzled at the same time.
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Interstellar Object 'Oumuamua' Appears To Be Wrapped In An Organic Insulation Layer

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  • It would be interesting if it picked up the "gunk" while hanging out there.
    • Well, it passed through there to get here.

      But, as I understand it, it is moving at greater than solar escape speed, so it didn't come from there originally.

      Caveat: if there are two very large (gas giant sized) planets in the Oort Cloud, it's conceivable that its speed could be a result of near approaches to both of them in a (relatively) short period (less than one orbit)....

      • Slingshotting isn't to gain velocity; it's to change direction without expending fuel/reaction mass.
        • by dryeo ( 100693 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2017 @11:03AM (#55776073)

          Slingshotting can add velocity (by stealing it from the planet it is passing) or even reduce velocity. From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

          In orbital mechanics and aerospace engineering, a gravitational slingshot, gravity assist maneuver, or swing-by is the use of the relative movement (e.g. orbit around the Sun) and gravity of a planet or other astronomical object to alter the path and speed of a spacecraft, typically to save propellant and reduce expense. Gravity assistance can be used to accelerate a spacecraft, that is, to increase or decrease its speed or redirect its path. The "assist" is provided by the motion of the gravitating body as it pulls on the spacecraft.[1] The gravity assist maneuver was first used in 1959 when the Soviet probe Luna 3 photographed the far side of Earth's Moon, and it was used by interplanetary probes from Mariner 10 onwards, including the two Voyager probes' notable flybys of Jupiter and Saturn.

        • Please to stop using "velocity" when you mean"speed".

          Remember, speed is a scalar, velocity is a vector. 60 mph is a speed, 60 mph due north is a vector.

        • Slingshotting isn't to gain velocity; it's to change direction without expending fuel/reaction mass.

          Correct, it is a velocity vector rotation about the center of mass of the object. However it is a rotation in the moving frame of reference relative to the Sun, so it typically does change the velocity relative to the sun (and yes speed also, but I really mean velocity).

      • Well, it passed through there to get here.

        But, as I understand it, it is moving at greater than solar escape speed, so it didn't come from there originally.

        Depends on what you mean by "there". It came from interstellar space and has thus been passing on a trajectory on its own, orbiting the galaxy very likely for billions of years, passing through all kinds of environments. It would be interesting to see someone do a study on probabilities of exposure to various environments over such a long time. How many stars does it make a pass around? How long in giant molecular gas clouds, and in dust clouds?

    • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2017 @03:56AM (#55774361) Homepage

      There's no need to "pick up" tholins; they seem to naturally form everywhere we look in the distant solar system, from simple carbon and nitrogen compounds. Kuiper belt objects are a mix of red (tholins) and white (ices); where you see ices, that's generally young terrain. Actually, to be fair, tholins are more of a rust brown than "red", but that's picking at straws ;) Tholins are an extremely broad range of chemical compounds (some very long), and probably differ significantly in ratios from place to place, but form a family of common celestial organic "gunk".

    • Does anyone remember the author, and name, of a science fiction story about an asteroid named "Pomona Negra", or "Black Apple", which had inexplicably turned red, and was found to be coated with a form of life that kept growing, and spread to the boots of the crew sent to investigate and eventually to the lunar base they returned to?

      • Does anyone remember the author, and name, of a science fiction story about an asteroid named "Pomona Negra", or "Black Apple", which had inexplicably turned red, and was found to be coated with a form of life that kept growing, and spread to the boots of the crew sent to investigate and eventually to the lunar base they returned to?

        The Red Stuff by John Wyndham

  • Rendezvous with Rama (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Camembert ( 2891457 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2017 @02:13AM (#55774095)
    When the news about the object broke, I immediately thought about Rendezvous with Rama. Probably many others here as well. Pity that it is impossible to do an intercept mission for closer study.
    • Well you know these things happen in THREES.

    • by RubberDogBone ( 851604 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2017 @03:12AM (#55774265)

      Impossible for now. If we manage to survive long enough, we may eventually come up with a really fast method of space travel and chasing down this thing would be a good use for it, as it will probably be closer than the nearest stars for a very long time to come.

      Even if it takes 100 years, it will still be "only" 0.02 light years away if it maintains its speed of 210,000kph. It will take around 400 years to reach the inner edge of the Oort cloud.

      This thing is going to be in the Sol system for a long time. We can go see it. Well, probably not we. But descendants of ours could.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Ars technica covered this https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/11/so-you-want-to-send-a-probe-to-catch-up-to-oumuamua/
        Best bet is those tiny starshot space probes that are still in development.

      • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2017 @05:24AM (#55774545)
        We could *already* get to it, if we really wanted. Dawn has reached a 10 km/s delta-v even with primitive ion thrusters and simple solar panels. With the DS4G thrusters currently in development, you could do twenty times as much.
        • We could *already* get to it, if we really wanted. Dawn has reached a 10 km/s delta-v even with primitive ion thrusters and simple solar panels. With the DS4G thrusters currently in development, you could do twenty times as much.

          Sounds like a job for Tony Stark aka Elon Musk!

        • by Eloking ( 877834 )

          We could *already* get to it, if we really wanted. Dawn has reached a 10 km/s delta-v even with primitive ion thrusters and simple solar panels. With the DS4G thrusters currently in development, you could do twenty times as much.

          Wait, until there's something in "Detla-V" that I'm missing, 10 km/s is 36 000 km/h and twenty times that is 720 000 km/h. Still not "that" much faster to catch up to him quickly. And I'm guessing coming back with a sample is out of the equasion.

          • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2017 @11:10AM (#55776123)
            Sample return would be somewhat more complicated, but since the object's velocity at infinity is around 26 km/s, anything over 100 km/s is going to catch up fairly quickly and even ~50 km/s could be usable. In fact, your egress speed could even limited by your ability to decelerate in deep space quickly enough not to , although I'd have to do some calculations for that. Anyway, given this object's trajectory, your best bet with what we have available (or will have available in the next fifteen years or so) is a Ulysses-like maneuver to change your orbital plane inclination in a Jupiter flyby, then using the Oberth effect as close to the Sun as possible to maximize the benefits of high-thrust propulsion, then a period of electric thruster acceleration and deceleration. Note that on its own, a 6 km/s Oberth maneuver close to the Sun from parabolic velocity could give you about 40 km/s at infinity even at a reasonably survivable distance from the Sun. The other variables are much more variable. I'd have to write a numerical model for that.
        • Yeah but unless you want a blazing fast flyby, you would have to also spend a lot of time and fuel decelerating. There isn't enough gravity pool in either object to be useful for capture at those speeds.

        • We could *already* get to it, if we really wanted. Dawn has reached a 10 km/s delta-v even with primitive ion thrusters and simple solar panels. With the DS4G thrusters currently in development, you could do twenty times as much.

          You should say "If we want to be ready to do it next time we see one of these, we can be."

          Doesn't help us this time.

          It is asking a bit much to expect us to have an advanced mission to launch designed to intercept something we have never seen before. But if its natural then there will be more, and if not "they come in threes" (that's a joke, but not really - either way, why should this be the only one?).

          • It will be interesting to see someone propose funding such a probe, to be ready for launch if (when) another interstellar object is detected. Can they get traction with anyone with money?

            If NASA, the ESO and China won't spring for it, maybe some group of billionaires? Musk, Bezos, Gates, Buffet, are you guys in? Maybe if Stephen Hawking [express.co.uk] asks?

    • Word is that Clarke got the idea for Rama from his role as a consultant on the Black Knight Satellite...
  • Alieums? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spilt_Blood ( 5195539 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2017 @02:13AM (#55774097)
    By "extraterrestrial watchers" they mean crack-pots right? Look I'm all for the idea that we cannot be alone in this universe. In fact I think that the idea that we are alone is down right blasphemous/preposterous, but considering the sheer size of the universe, and the "Special" conditions that would be needed(as far as we know) to propagate sentient life, seeing an "Alien" spacecraft would near impossible. There could be aliens out there now, but what interest would they have in us? We are down right barbaric, not to mention that our own space program(USA) has almost taken a giant leap backwards, with all of the budget cuts! Unless we are to become slaves/food/resources, they would likely have zero interest in us IMHO.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      Apart from one logical thing, why would you think more advanced aliens would be stupider than us. We have spent fuck all time looking for them, but they have spent millions even billions of years looking for us. How to find us very early in our transitional state from primitive to modern. The simplest infra red satellite dotted around the galaxy in their billions, in orbit around suitable planets, looking for the first clump of camp fires. Why the hell would advanced societies not look for primitive societi

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Buried somewhere deep in all those words is a thought trying desperately to get out.
        • Buried somewhere deep in all those words is a thought trying desperately to get out.

          Descartes replies, “No, I think not,” and disappears in a puff of logic

      • Apart from one logical thing, why would you think more advanced aliens would be stupider than us.

        That's easy: the more advanced we get, the dumber we're becoming.

      • Apart from one logical thing, why would you think more advanced aliens would be stupider than us.

        Because as we've seen in movies, we can easily infect their systems with malware!

      • Or maybe, aliens are nothing more than AI machines evolved from their host organic planet; effectively ambassadors to their home world. When you've got something trekking the universe with an IQ of 1 million +, why would they care about us? Let be honest here, we humans have a huge ego. We like to think we matter, and are important; and to ourselves we are. But to anything else outside our social sphere, why would they give two fucks? That's like some ant colony next to your home pondering if the POTUS will

    • by fisted ( 2295862 )

      There could be aliens out there now, but what interest would they have in us?

      Uh, maybe the same interest we'd have in them? After all you're saying yourself it takes pretty special circumstances, so that's interesting by definition.

      We are down right barbaric

      Yeah, and only you are enlightened enough to realize this. And the aliens would know/see this without watching.

      smh

    • By "extraterrestrial watchers" they mean crack-pots right?

      People are capable of some pretty impressive belief's and disbelief's. I know one guy who denies that humans ever reached the moon at the same time insists that this rock is a spaceship filled with aliens. We somehow cannot get 250 K miles away with proven technology, but aliens scoot around in goo covered rocks. Sounds legit.

    • The thing about aliens is, they are alien. You have no idea how they think or what they value. Maybe they love "Ally McBeal"
    • We are down right barbaric, not to mention that our own space program(USA) has almost taken a giant leap backwards, with all of the budget cuts! Unless we are to become slaves/food/resources, they would likely have zero interest in us IMHO.

      That doesnâ(TM)t make any sense. Why wouldnâ(TM)t space aliens be interested in us, perhaps even more so because of our history of barbarism? Particularly given the heroism that naturally arises in such a world.

      We may not all be that interesting, but the aliens

    • There could be aliens out there now, but what interest would they have in us? We are down right barbaric, not to mention that our own space program(USA) has almost taken a giant leap backwards, with all of the budget cuts! Unless we are to become slaves/food/resources, they would likely have zero interest in us IMHO.

      I agree with you... but THEY don't know that.

      Look, it's really almost impossible to fathom the size of our solar system, let alone the universe. I would venture that most people can't even conceptually understand it. But coming up with outright dumb theories - they are great at doing.

  • by dUb ( 21971 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2017 @02:20AM (#55774115) Homepage

    We don't know where it came from but it seems to be a huge shit from some kind of alien. Really big alien.
    Just think like when you're flying between Europe and Americas and need to go to toilet. And when you flush it gets out because of cabin pressure and get frozen. Just like Oumuamua is flying on space. And even the shape is almost same.
    There can be some kind of bacteria to be investigated but it's not same life form like where it came out from.

  • by little1973 ( 467075 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2017 @03:00AM (#55774241)

    Explaining the Elongated Shape of Oumuamua by the Eikonal Abrasion Model

    http://iopscience.iop.org/arti... [iop.org]

  • I've already seen the documentary on this. First the asteroid enters the solar system. Then the Bad Carrots [wikia.com] arrive. And finally Lyekka [wikia.com] eats Tokyo. Fortunately, we are a type 13 plant, so our suffering shouldn't last to much longer.

  • by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2017 @04:03AM (#55774373)

    Eat too much this holiday season, and you too will find yourself wrapped In an organic insulation layer when spring comes.

  • Some believe that its strange, long shape suggests that it is a spaceship

    Is there any reason that an interstellar vehicle would or should be "rocket" shaped?

    It seems to me that a streamlined profile is quite unnecessary for anything other than a launch from within an atmosphere.

    • Whilst aerodynamics aren't really a concern, an elongated shape may still prove beneficial when navigating dust, debris or indeed anything else - when travelling at 130,000 miles/hour.

      Our engineering suggests the elongated shape may also be 'natural' in some cases, in so much as you may want your living spaces as far away from your engines as you can get them - that naturally stretches out your ship design.

      So yes, most of these sentiments are probably from watching sci-fi, but some aspects of it aren't nece

    • Is there any reason that an interstellar vehicle would or should be "rocket" shaped?

      Yes: structural considerations. A columnar shape with thrust applied at one end (assuming it ever needs to maneuver) gives the most benign stress distribution and requires the least structural mass.

  • And have the Alpha Centurians pay for it!

  • This object is long, cylindrical and "covered" in organic matter? Wanna bet it's also tapered at both ends and smells bad?

    People, it's a TURD!

    This is the respect humans have in the galaxy: Aliens throw their shit at us.

  • by kbg ( 241421 )

    long shape suggests that it is a spaceship of some sort

    And why is that? You do realize that shape doesn't have to be streamlined in space? There is no air therefore you can have the shape to be any way you like.

  • by Guyle ( 79593 )
    They're surveying the area for an interstellar bypass.
  • That's not an asteroid, nor is it an alien spaceship. It's an interstellar turd.
  • by omnichad ( 1198475 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2017 @09:30AM (#55775343) Homepage

    Oumuamua has also got extraterrestrial watchers excited.

    How do we know that???

  • "Let's send this puppy back where it came from. Nuke it."

    - Gen. Talbot
  • It's a pickle that escaped from a space picnic! Nothing to see here, folks, move along.
  • It's a new missile sent by the bugs, they just missed with their first shot. Expect more incoming.

  • "thick crust of carbon-rich gunk" == Inter-stellar bugs on the windshield.
  • Sorry, had to ask that because it was the first thing I thought of when I read the name of this object. I actually thought it was a hoax/prank for a second.

  • 1. It's some kind of Starseed [wikia.com]

    2. It's a sentient organic star ship like Gomtuu [wikia.com]

    3. its something totally natural but really, really, really weird that is going to have people discussing/arguing over what it is for years to come.

    My moneys on 3, but 1 and 2 are more fun to think about.

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