The uncertainty of science: According to a new paper published today, Oumuamua wasn’t a hydrogen iceberg as proposed by other scientists earlier this year.
Traveling at a blistering speed of 196,000mph in 2017, ‘Oumuamua was first classified as an asteroid, and when it later sped up, was found to have properties more akin to comets. But the 0.2km radius interstellar object didn’t fit that category, either, and its point of origin has remained a mystery. Researchers focused on the giant molecular cloud (GMC) W51—one of the closest GMCs to Earth at just 17,000 light years away—as a potential point of origin for ‘Oumuamua, but hypothesize that it simply could not have made the journey intact. “The most likely place to make hydrogen icebergs is in the densest environments of the interstellar medium. These are giant molecular clouds,” said Loeb, confirming that these environments are both too far away and are not conducive to the development of hydrogen icebergs.
The hydrogen iceberg theory was for many reasons very very speculative, and not very convincing, which is why I never posted a link to it when it became clickbait for the mainstream press several months ago. The object’s behavior as it zipped through the solar system, combined with its elongated shape, still leave us with questions. While some scientists have definitely stated it could not have been an alien spacecraft, that likely conclusion remains as uncertain as the theory that it was a hydrogen iceberg.
The only way we will definitely know is to go and look at it. And such a mission remains possible, with launch dates in 2021, 2022, or 2023, with technology we presently have, if we were to move fast.
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