A little bit of space amazingness: it seems that our recent interstellar visitor has an unusual shape – long and thin as in this artist’s reconstruction. The interstellar object, named ‘Oumuamua (Hawaiian for scout) came from the direction of the constellation Lyra, passing through the solar system earlier this year, swinging past the sun in early September at a speed of nearly 200,000 miles per hour. It’s now on it’s way out again.
‘Oumuamua is not icy like a comet, but has a reddish colour like some outer solar system objects. A bit more reading suggests that the colour could be down to Tholin or ‘space tar’, a complex mix of organic chemicals formed in space from simple molecules by radiation. Some researchers have speculated that Earth may have been seeded by organic compounds early in its development by tholin-rich comets, providing the raw material necessary for life to develop.
It all seems like a science fiction film – but it’s not.
What a time to be alive!