Written by Aryan Pratap Singh, a grade 8 student
On September 6th, 2017 the Pan-STARRS1 telescope located on the Island of Maui in Hawaii caught a glimpse of a mysterious space object, later named ‘Oumuamua’. It was the first interstellar object detected inside our solar system.
What is Oumuamua? And, why this name?
Well, the said mysterious space object, 1I/2017 U1, went through its fair share of classifications, finally being classified as a comet by NASA. Although, observations revealed no signs of cometary activity after it slingshotted past the Sun on Sept. 9, 2017, at a blistering speed of 196,000 miles per hour (87.3 kilometers per second). It was briefly classified as an asteroid until new measurements found it was accelerating slightly, a sign it behaves more like a comet. When describing the interstellar interloper, NASA said that the object appeared to be a rocky, cigar-shaped object with a slightly reddish hue, measuring 400 meters long.
It was officially named ‘Oumuamua’ by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), which is responsible for granting official names to bodies in the solar system and beyond. In addition to the technical name, the Pan-STARRS team dubbed it ‘Oumuamua (pronounced oh MOO-uh MOO-uh), which is Hawaiian for “a messenger from afar arriving first.”
Twist in the tale
However, According to Professor Avi Loeb, the Chair of Harvard University’s Department of Astronomy, Oumuamua wasn’t an asteroid or a comet but rather alien garbage.
According to him the space rock was actually a small 90m-long object and was a discarded technology from an alien civilization. The professor has explained this in his book “Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth.”
Loeb also explains that astronomers have concluded that Oumuamua reflects sunlight after every eight hours, allowing them to make a safe assumption that the object takes eight hours to complete a full rotation.
There is clearly a lot of debate and discussion as to what this Oumuamua could be. Scientists believe that there are thousands of such objects in the galaxy and that we will continue to see more of them in the coming decades. But, Professor Loeb continues to claim, apparently with substantial arguments, that this is in fact not just a comet.
The universe is a dark, strange place and there are still entities out there that are our understanding. Let’s hope we find out the true form of this particular space rock.
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Header image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eso1737a.jpg