First Interstellar Contact

Space is a busy place

On 19 October 2017 an observer at the Hawaii telescope, Robert Weyrek, was quick to observe an elongated object tracing across the universe of our solar system. What he discovered required to be followed so he contacted astronomers globally who he knew had the capacity to trace the object so involving Micheal M based in the Mediterranean.

Confirming the existence at the trajectory given it was instantly realised this was either a new comet or asteroid though it was some time later before it was found not to conform with the characteristics of those objects. Neither an asteroid of rocky composition that was circulating the Sun within its gravitational pull, nor a similarly held object of icy gas composition, a comet, it behaved as though it was from outside the edges of our solar system and from interstellar space.

There has never been a sighting recorded of an object from beyond the solar boundary lying beyond Neptune the outer most planet of our galaxy.

This object had been travelling, it is estimated, 14 billon years – figures here are not to be relied on but mere guides so refer to the scientists for accuracy data.

In a lecture hall in Belfast this week Professor Andrew Fitzsimmons brought the story in which he played a part in the verification and tracking of the object later to be named Oumuamua – my word search has not found it but it is a Hawaiian word for something from outside, the farthest, that has come to visit us.

When Oumuamua appeared it was within a period of turbulent world weather systems that compromised sighting as the weather cover limited the telescopic observation over the three nights it was most vivid and observable.

Calculations of the accumulated data on the sightings became a flurry of scientific activity and discovery from these computed returns. Firstly it was established the object was on a trajectory confirming it was not of this solar system. It was travelling on a line which is a hyperbolic paraboloid. The phenomenon is known and somehow anticipated as scientists have determined such curvatures to exist but held within our own solar system by gravitational force.

Oumuamua did not follow its hyperbolic paraboloid pathway within the constraints of the suns gravity but profoundly travelled on a path unheard of or unseen before. Therefore it is realised it is the sole object from outside our solar system to visit us. Now it is somewhere beyond Saturn and Venus heading away on the linear route it conforms to. Conforming to the geometric characteristics of behaviours enabling them to be categorised is itself a conformist element. The outer interstellar solar systems have through concurrent observations on the data acquired since this sighting confirm the behaviours have common themes. The gas and solids Oumuamua and asteroids, comets are formed from coincide with their counterparts in the suns orbit.

One observation of the data found for example the linear track of Oumuamua was complying with an object which in its propulsion was leaving behind in its wake gases and tiny elements discarded in the same way asteroids and comets left behind debris and gas as they travelled onward.

That data was a very important fixed element of the story so far as it concluded it had infinite possible outcomes that paradoxically were tangible. Science had enabled through centuries of observation and accumulation of knowledge a theory to be produced yet it was clear it was telling us the infinity beyond had characteristics somehow similar to our own solar system.

Observation is a practice of astronomy reliant on telescopes on earth placed in the clearest cleanest air on hilltops or pollution free zones enabling the best results. The limitations of observation is itself a profound paradox. For it is only with earth’s resources we seek an abundance of infinite unknowns.

Tools for seeing

We only have a few millennia of tools to conduct earth limited devices for discovery.

Telescopes are now mirrors with cameras and billions of mega pixels are collated and correlated. There is a telescope being built in Chile to come into commission around 2020. It only has an eight metre wide mirror. The reason is it is all that is needed to see the solar system we are within and seeing beyond that is impossible due to the return of light and the concentration of impulses would be overwhelming in their scope. That is how I see it.

For greater discovery it may be necessary to have space based telescopes and some devices indeed accompany space exploration missions.

Deciding what Oumuamua looks like is another element of the scientific trail. The detective work is speculative and all images you see are drilled down data with an end result of a consensus shape and set of behaviours.

Put succinctly it is shaped like a chocolate eclair (200 metres?) long and spins and rotates as it travels with some chocolate left behind as debris and nice vapors of chocolate left behind to savour. That leads onto its density as that is another unknown. It has not been discovered if it had a front seat driver or onboard catering like a space station.

As it carries onward and leaves the solar system going into interstellar space it leaves behind many perplexed people and hundreds if not billons of questions.

In its wake it leaves us still unaware what dark matter is. Knowing only the composition of a 20th of the known elements in our solar system.

In its wake we are left knowing the matter we are composed of is expanding outwards and is unresistant to a pull of gravity making the dark matter itself an expanding unknown. The forces of our universe have been seen not to compromise other than in very small measures Oumuamua and it came and went leaving little traces of itself but leaving behind proof of its existence.

We know the expansion of the universe as Big Bang theory in converse to the Big Implosion theory as it is evident through as late as 1998, the effect is observable. There are clusters of scientists looking nightly and 24/7 on earth to the skies and just as Oumuamua appeared on 19 October 2017 it is very probable further sightings will provide evidence of already present objects we have hitherto been unable to see or detect. The asteroid count is increasing almost daily and around 750,000 are now identified amidst all other objects associated with the solar system.

The exploration of space is a preoccupation since humans existed in order to define meaning and some semblance of creation. Over centuries and on the shoulders of gaints such as Galileo and scientists such as Halle and Enckle a story is developed in our need for a narrative.

While the discoveries could and do play a part in understanding of the earth’s behaviour and our possible fate as a planet in a corner of a unexplainable infinity. The Oumuamua is on a pathway in the region of the universe ‘north’ of our solar system and apparently there are more encounters likely to be experienced in this part of the Cosmos. The tail of the universe is where the arrival came into, arrived and is on that outward trajectory after making the hyperbolic parabolic curvature on the plane estimated and extrapolated by observering astronomers.

It’s possible extra-terrestrial life has caught up with the noise of earth and they will have found the latest instalment of Eastenders when Lofty has returned to Waldorf after 30 years absence and the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 are deposits carrying out of date news. They may be wondering what life is.

The ships Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 can be said to be the first objects mankind has sent and gone beyond the barrier known as the interstellar limit or boundary.

The real results are seen here –

and here it is seen as no big deal!

While Earth’s sun may see an ‘Oumuamua-like space rock swing by twice per year, ‘Oumuamua “will never encounter another star,” Laughlin said. “The odds of it coming close to another star are roughly 1 in every 10^14, 10^15 years, so those brief and exciting moments in September and October were wonderful for us, but they were really the time of ‘Oumuamua’s life.”

Email Hanneke Weitering at or follow her @hannekescience. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. Original article on

I detect a momentary lack of acknowledgement and perhaps a degree of discovery envy. The fact being no other sighting ever preceded this one. The discovery however it is evaluated is still an extraordinary occurrence. By reasoning of the scale of the flyby stated in the article above it as relevant as a report on a football match. It is a conjecture only made possible through the origins of the discovery of Oumuamua making it a pointless conceit advancing nothing. It is after all a first contact.

There is no shortage of theories and posted this

It’s accelerating: admittedly by only a tiny amount, but something is giving ‘Oumuamua a push. It could be comet-like ‘outgassing’. But at no point has the mysterious object been seen to have a comet’s tail.

It has a weird shape. Based on its erratic flashing, astronomers have inferred ‘Oumuamua must be long and thin. Few known asteroids and comets are like that.

But … for it to be an alien artefact would be extraordinary.

And to prove that would require some extraordinary evidence.

However, our chances of learning anything more from our first known interstellar visitor are very slim. It’s racing away — back into deep space — at some 95,000km/h.

There are, however, other possible — and more probable — alternatives.

“I think we should look at the alien option given this asteroid is unusual, but while a more mundane explanation is reasonable it surely must be preferred,” says Monash University astronomer Michael Brown.

John Graham

25 February 2018


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