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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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Scientists: Nations Need Stronger Pledges to Curb Climate Change

Governments are moving in the right direction, but nowhere near enough, so hopefully they will be willing to take on much stronger commitments

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Scientists, Nations, Climate Change
A woman wearing a mask walks past buildings on a polluted day in Handan, Hebei province, China, Jan. 12, 2019. China is reportedly the world's top emitter of greenhouse gases. VOA

The vast majority of national commitments in the 2015 Paris Agreement are inadequate to prevent the worst effects of global warming, scientists said on Tuesday, naming the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitting countries as among those that must ratchet up their efforts.

“Governments are moving in the right direction, but nowhere near enough, so hopefully they will be willing to take on much stronger commitments” in next month’s United Nation’s climate summit in Spain, said Robert Watson, lead author of the report by the nonprofit Universal Ecological Fund.

The report ranked nearly 75%, or 136, of the pledges as insufficient, including ones by major carbon emitters China, the United States, and India. A dozen, by countries including Australia, Japan and Brazil, were judged only partially sufficient.

Countries at next month’s summit in Madrid will hash out some details of the international pact to curb warming. Chile withdrew as host following weeks of riots protesting inequality.

Scientists, Nations, Climate Change
A protestor holds a placard in front of the India Gate during a protest demanding government to take immediate steps to control air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 5, 2019. VOA

Of the 184 pledges countries made under the climate agreement, only 36 are ambitious enough to help reach the agreement’s goal of keeping global warming less than 1.5 Celsius (2.7 F) above pre-industrial levels, the report said.

Most of those 36 are by countries in the European Union.

Watson, a former chair of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said the report could be read two ways: “You can read ‘My God it’s hopeless’, or ‘My God this is a wake up call.'”

Watson estimated that even if all nations meet their existing pledges, the world would be headed for temperature rise of between 3 and 3.5 degrees Celsius, which could lead to more extreme weather, rising sea levels and the loss of plant and animal species.

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The report rated the European Union’s 28 member states as having sufficient pledges because they aim to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by at least 40% below the 1990 level by 2030.

It ranked the United States as insufficient because President Donald Trump reversed former President Barack Obama’s climate policies and yanked Washington out of the pact. The administration, which argues that Paris Agreement would cost U.S. taxpayers too much money, filed official paperwork on Monday to withdraw.

China, the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases, and India, also came in as insufficient because their pledges focus on carbon intensity targets, which lower emissions per unit of gross domestic product, or GDP. Because those economies are growing and coal produces much of their electricity, total emissions have risen sharply even though carbon intensity levels in China and India have fallen. (VOA)