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Scientists Say Cigar-Shaped Interstellar Object Not an Alien Spaceship

Its name in the native Hawaiian language means a messenger arriving from a great distance

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Scientists, Interstellar, Alien Spaceship
Artist's rendering of Oumuamua as it passed through the solar system after its discovery in October 2017. (Image Credit: European Southern Observatory/M. Kornmesser via NASA). VOA

After investigating the nature of a mysterious and apparently cigar-shaped object called ‘Oumuamua spotted in 2017 speeding through our solar system, astronomers remain uncertain over how to classify it, but are confident it is not an alien spaceship.

Its odd shape and motion had prompted some scientists to wonder whether ‘Oumuamua, the first object from another star system found passing through our solar system, was some sort of alien technology perhaps exploring the cosmos. But after poring over the data, an international team of researchers wrote that “we find no compelling evidence to favor an alien explanation.”

Scientists tracked the reddish-colored ‘Oumuamua from Oct. 14, 2017, until Jan. 2, 2018, after which it became too faint to detect even using the most powerful telescopes. It is estimated to be a half-mile (800 meters) long, tumbling through space.

Consistent with natural origin

Scientists, Interstellar, Alien Spaceship
It is estimated to be a half-mile (800 meters) long, tumbling through space. Pixabay

“Our key finding is that ‘Oumuamua’s properties are consistent with a natural origin and an alien explanation is unwarranted,” said University of Maryland astronomer Matthew Knight, co-leader of the research published in the Nature Astronomy.

“Yes, if it made a sudden, unexplainable turn that would certainly have warranted further exploration,” Knight added.

‘Oumuamua was first detected by the University of Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS1 telescope. Its name in the native Hawaiian language means a messenger arriving from a great distance.

Knight said it is not easy to fit ‘Oumuamua into familiar classifications such as a comet or asteroid.

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“We have tried to avoid putting it in one of those boxes and prefer to call it more generically an ‘object,’” Knight said. “In simple terms, asteroids are rocky and devoid of ices, while comets are a mixture of rock and ice, so-called ‘dirty snowballs,’” Knight added.

Planetary building block

‘Oumuamua was somehow ejected from a distant star system, traversing through interstellar space and through our solar system. It deviated slightly from a path that would be explained purely by the Sun’s gravitational pull because of what some researchers said was apparently a very small emission of gas from its surface, indicative of a comet, though any such emission was so slight as to be undetected. It lacked a dust tail or gas jets, characteristic of comets.

Scientists, Interstellar, Alien Spaceship
Oumuamua was first detected by the University of Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS1 telescope. Pixabay

The researchers wrote that a “straightforward explanation for ‘Oumuamua is that it is a planetesimal” — a planetary building block, or a fragment of one — formed in faraway star system.

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Its composition remains a mystery, including whether it is just rock or includes some metal or other ingredients. It is currently beyond Saturn, dashing out of our solar system. (VOA)

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Jupiter not as Dry as it was Predicted to be: NASA Scientists

Jupiter not as dry as earlier thought, reveals new NASA probe

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Jupiter
Jupiter may not be as dry as earlier shown by a NASA probe, according to the first science. (Representational Image). Pixabay

The largest planet in our solar system may not be as dry as earlier shown by a NASA probe, according to the first science results revealed by the US space agency’s Juno mission on the amount of water in Jupiter’s atmosphere.

At the equator, water makes up about 0.25 per cent of the molecules in Jupiter’s atmosphere — almost three times that of the Sun, said the study published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

These are also the first findings on the gas giant’s abundance of water since NASA’s 1995 Galileo mission suggested Jupiter might be extremely dry compared to the Sun. The comparison is based not on liquid water but on the presence of its components, oxygen and hydrogen, present in the Sun.

“We found the water in the equator to be greater than what the Galileo probe measured,” said Cheng Li, a Juno scientist at the University of California, Berkeley. “Because the equatorial region is very unique at Jupiter, we need to compare these results with how much water is in other regions,” Li said.

An accurate estimate of the total amount of water in Jupiter’s atmosphere has been on the wish lists of planetary scientists for decades. The figure in the gas giant represents a critical missing piece to the puzzle of our solar system’s formation.

Jupiter
These are also the first findings on the gas giant’s abundance of water since NASA’s 1995 Galileo mission suggested Jupiter might be extremely dry compared to the Sun. (Representational Image). Pixabay

Jupiter was likely the first planet to form, and it contains most of the gas and dust that was not incorporated into the Sun.

Water abundance also has important implications for the gas giant’s meteorology (how wind currents flow on Jupiter) and internal structure. While lightning — a phenomenon typically fuelled by moisture — detected on Jupiter by Voyager and other spacecraft implied the presence of water, an accurate estimate of the amount of water deep within Jupiter’s atmosphere remained elusive.

Before the Galileo probe stopped transmitting 57 minutes into its Jovian descent in December 1995, it radioed out spectrometer measurements of the amount of water in the gas giant’s atmosphere down to a depth of about 120 kilometres. The scientists working on the data were dismayed to find ten times less water than expected.

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A rotating, solar-powered spacecraft Juno was launched in 2011. Because of the Galileo probe experience, the mission seeks to obtain water abundance readings across large regions of the immense planet.

The Juno science team used data collected during Juno’s first eight science flybys of Jupiter to generate the findings. (IANS)