Most of the comets we see in the sky were born in our solar system. They may have formed deep within the Oort cloud, and for some, it is their first visit to the inner solar system, but they are distinctly children of the Sun. We know of only two objects that came from beyond our solar system, Omuamua and Borisov. There are likely other interstellar objects visiting our solar system, we just haven’t found them. But that’s likely to change when Rubin Observatory comes online.Continue reading “Vera Rubin Will Find Many More Interstellar Objects”
At one time, astronomers believed that the planets formed in their current orbits, which remained stable over time. But more recent observations, theory, and calculations have shown that planetary systems are subject to shake-ups and change. Periodically, planets are kicked out of their star systems to become “rogue planets,” bodies that are no longer gravitationally bound to any star and are adrift in the interstellar medium (ISM). Some of these planets may be gas giants with tightly bound icy moons orbiting them, which they could bring with them into the ISM.
Like Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, these satellites could have warm water interiors that might support life. Other research has indicated that rocky planets with plenty of water on their surfaces could also support life through a combination of geological activity and the decay of radionuclides. According to a recent paper by an international team of astronomers, there could be hundreds of rogue planets in our cosmic neighborhood. Based on their first-ever feasibility analysis, they also indicate that deep space missions could explore these unbound objects more easily than planets still bound to their stars.Continue reading “If Rogue Planets are Everywhere, How Could We Explore Them?”
When Oumuamua travelled through our Solar System back in 2017, people around the world paid attention. It was the first Interstellar Object (ISO) astronomers had ever identified. Then in August 2019, Comet 2I Borisov travelled through our Solar System, becoming the second ISO to cruise through for a visit. Together, the visiting ISOs generated a wave of inquiry and speculation.
There’s bound to be more ISOs than just those two, and a new study says our Solar System has probably captured some of these interstellar visitors, though they don’t stay for long.Continue reading “A Few Interstellar Objects Have Probably Been Captured”
Inspiration for space exploration can come from all corners. One of the most inspiring, or terrifying, sources of inspiration for some in space exploration came from computer science expert John von Neumann, who laid out a framework for self-replicating machines in a series of lectures he gave in 1948. Ever since then, scientists and engineers have been debating the advantages, and the perils, of such a system.
However, while technology has indeed advanced a long way since the 1940s, it still seems like we are still a long way from having a fully functional von Neumann machine. That is unless you turn to biology. Even simple biological systems can perform absolutely mind-blowing feats of chemical synthesis. And there are few people in the world today who know that better than George Church. The geneticist from Harvard has been at the forefront of a revolution in the biological sciences over the last 30 years. Now, he’s published a new paper in Astrobiology musing about how biology could aid in creating a pico-scale system that could potentially explore other star systems at next to no cost.Continue reading “Lightweight Picogram-Scale Probes Could be the Best way to Explore Other Star Systems”
We finally have the technological means to detect interstellar objects. We’ve detected two in the last few years, ‘Oumuamua and 2I/Borisov, and there are undoubtedly more out there. As such, there’s been a lot of interest in developing a mission that could visit one once we detect it. But what would such a mission look like? Now, a draft paper from a team of primarily American scientists has taken a stab at answering that question and moved us one step closer to launching such a mission.Continue reading “We’ll Inevitably see Another Interstellar Object. Which Ones Make the Best Targets to Visit?”
Do aliens exist? Almost certainly. The universe is vast and ancient, and our corner of it is not particularly special. If life emerged here, it probably did elsewhere. Keep in mind this is a super broad assumption. A single instance of fossilized archaebacteria-like organisms five superclusters away would be all it takes to say, “Yes, there are aliens!” …if we could find them somehow.Continue reading “Alien Artifacts Could Be Hidden Across the Solar System. Here’s how we Could Search for Them.”
In a recent study submitted to Earth and Planetary Astrophysics, a team of researchers from Yale University investigated how to identify impact craters that may have been created by Interstellar Objects (ISOs). This study is intriguing as the examination of ISOs has gained notable interest throughout the scientific community since the discoveries and subsequent research of ‘Oumuamua and Comet 2I/Borisov in 2017 and 2019, respectively. In their paper, the Yale researchers discussed how the volume of impact melt within fixed-diameter craters could be a possible pathway for recognizing ISO craters, as higher velocity impacts produce greater volumes of impact melt.Continue reading “Impacts From Interstellar Objects Should Leave Very Distinct Craters”
In October 2017, the interstellar object ‘Oumuamua passed through our Solar System, leaving a lot of questions in its wake. Not only was it the first object of its kind ever to be observed, but the limited data astronomers obtained as it shot out of our Solar System left them all scratching their heads. Even today, almost five years after this interstellar visitor made its flyby, scientists are still uncertain about its true nature and origins. In the end, the only way to get some real answers from ‘Oumuamua is to catch up with it.
Interestingly enough, there are many proposals on the table for missions that could do just that. Consider Project Lyra, a proposal by the Institute for Interstellar Studies (i4is) that would rely on advanced propulsions technology to rendezvous with interstellar objects (ISOs) and study them. According to their latest study, if their mission concept launched in 2028 and performed a complex Jupiter Oberth Manoeuvre (JOM), it would be able to catch up to ‘Oumuamua in 26 years.Continue reading “If Launched by 2028, a Spacecraft Could Catch up With Oumuamua in 26 Years”
On October 19th, 2017, astronomers made the first-ever detection of an interstellar object (ISO) passing through our Solar System. Designated 1I/2017 U1′ Oumuamua, this object confounded astronomers who could not determine if it was an interstellar comet or an asteroid. After four years and many theories (including the controversial “ET solar sail” hypothesis), the astronomical community appeared to land on an explanation that satisfied all the observations.
The “nitrogen iceberg” theory stated that ‘Oumuamua was likely debris from a Pluto-like planet in another solar system. In their latest study, titled “The Mass Budget Necessary to Explain ‘Oumuamua as a Nitrogen Iceberg,” Amir Siraj and Prof. Avi Loeb (who proposed the ET solar sail hypothesis) offered an official counter-argument to this theory. According to their new paper, there is an extreme shortage of exo-Plutos in the galaxy to explain the detection of a nitrogen iceberg.Continue reading “Not Saying it was Aliens, but ‘Oumuamua Probably Wasn’t a Nitrogen Iceberg…”
The search for potentially habitable planets is focused on exoplanets—planets orbiting other stars—for good reason. The only planet we know of with life is Earth and sunlight fuels life here. But some estimates say there are many more rogue planets roaming through space, not bound to or warmed by any star.
Could some of them support life?Continue reading “Rogue Planets Could be Habitable”