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  • richardmitnick 10:18 am on September 12, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "A 2nd mysterious object from interstellar space may be about to fly through our solar system", , , ‘Oumuamua, , , , Object C/2019 Q4   

    From Business Insider: “A 2nd mysterious object from interstellar space may be about to fly through our solar system” 

    From Business Insider

    9.11.19
    Dave Mosher
    Morgan McFall-Johnsen

    1
    Astronomers think object C/2019 Q4 (the green line) could be an interstellar object, perhaps a comet from another star system. OrbitalSimulator.com

    Astronomers think they’ve detected an interstellar object approaching our solar system.

    Called “C/2019 Q4” (formerly “gb00234”), the object appears to be following a path originating from outside the solar system. It may pass near Mars in October.

    This would be only the second interstellar object ever observed in our solar system. The first such visitor, ‘Oumuamua, took scientists by surprise in 2017. This time, they’re getting ready to watch C/2019 Q4 with “everything” they can, one astronomer said.

    If C/2019 Q4 is indeed interstellar, scientists should be able to study the object until it grows too dim to see, in early 2021.

    Astronomers may have spotted the second object ever to visit our solar system from another star system. The object may even fly near Mars in October.

    The scientists’ hunch is strong yet not entirely certain. But right now, the chances are much higher that the object, known as comet “C/2019 Q4 (Borisov)” (or “gb00234”), is interstellar, rather than a rock from within the solar system.

    The first such interstellar object ever detected, the mysterious and cigar-shaped ‘Oumuamua (which a few scientists controversially argued may be alien in origin), zoomed through our solar system in 2017.

    ‘Oumuamua

    An amateur astronomer in Ukraine, Gennady Borisov, may have been the first to spot C/2019 Q4 in the sky on August 30. It hasn’t yet entered our solar system, but astronomers have been collecting data in hopes of plotting the object’s path through space and figuring out where it came from.

    “It’s so exciting, we’re basically looking away from all of our other projects right now,” Olivier Hainaut, an astronomer with the European Southern Observatory, told Business Insider on Wednesday.

    Hainaut was part of a global team of astronomers that studied ‘Oumuamua as it passed through the solar system two years ago.

    “The main difference from ‘Oumuamua and this one is that we got it a long, long time in advance, ” he added. “Now astronomers are much more prepared.”

    Early images suggest C/2019 Q4 is followed by a small tail or halo of dust. That’s a distinct trait of comets — they hold ice that gets heated up by nearby stars, leading them to shoot out gas and grit into space. The dust could make C/2019 Q4 simpler to track than ‘Oumuamua, since dust brightly reflects sunlight.

    This could also make it easier for scientists to study the object’s composition, since telescope instruments can “taste” light to look for chemical signatures.

    “Here we have something that was born around another star and traveling toward us,” Hainaut said. “It’s the next best thing to sending a probe to a different solar system.”

    Astronomers are preparing to watch the object with as many telescopes as possible.

    ESO VLT at Cerro Paranal in the Atacama Desert, •ANTU (UT1; The Sun ),
    •KUEYEN (UT2; The Moon ),
    •MELIPAL (UT3; The Southern Cross ), and
    •YEPUN (UT4; Venus – as evening star).
    elevation 2,635 m (8,645 ft) from above Credit J.L. Dauvergne & G. Hüdepohl atacama photo,

    Astronomers around the globe are grabbing every telescope available to plot C/2019 Q4’s path through space. The goal: see whether the object has an orbit that’s elliptical (oval-shaped and around the sun) or hyperbolic (checkmark-shaped, and on an open-ended trajectory).

    It seems much more likely that its path is hyperbolic, though astronomers say more observations are required to know for sure. In particular, they’re trying to ascertain C/2019 Q4’s eccentricity, or how extreme its orbit is.

    “The error indicates it’s still possible that’s within the solar system,” Hainaut said. “But that error is decreasing as we get more and more data, and the eccentricity is looking interstellar.”

    The object’s seemingly high velocity and comet-like shroud of dust also tilt the scales toward interstellar, Hainaut added.

    3
    This rough simulation shows C/2019 Q4’s possible orbital path (green) through the solar system. It may pass between the orbits of Jupiter (purple) and Mars (orange) in late October.http://www.OrbitalSimulator.com

    “It could be a few days or a few weeks before we have enough data to definitively say. But even with the very best data, we may need more,” he said. “It’s frustrating.”

    When ‘Oumuamua sped past Earth at a distance of just 15 million miles in October 2017, astronomers had no idea it was coming.

    “We had to scramble for telescope time,” Hainaut said. “This time, we’re ready.”

    If it’s interstellar, C/2019 Q4 would reach its closest point to the sun at the end of December, and scientists should be able to observe it through about January 2021.

    Hainaut and his colleagues have some smaller telescopes queued up for observations, but he said he’d like to use “everything” to observe C/2019 Q4. His team is trying to get time on the “big guys,” including the Very Large Telescope in Chile, the Keck Observatory, and the Gemini telescope in Hawaii.


    NOAO Gemini North on MaunaKea, Hawaii, USA, Altitude 4,213 m (13,822 ft)

    Keck Observatory, operated by Caltech and the University of California, Maunakea Hawaii USA, 4,207 m (13,802 ft)

    He said a colleague and likely other astronomers around the globe were also working on proposals to have the Hubble Space Telescope take a look. Others are seeking to use NASA’s two infrared space telescopes: Spitzer, and the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer.

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/Spitzer Infrared Telescope

    NASA/WISE Telescope

    But scientists remain cautious about C/2019 Q4’s identity.

    6
    An artist’s depiction of the interstellar object ‘Oumuamua.ESA/Hubble; NASA; ESO; M. Kornmesser

    Though many astronomers are excited about C/2019 Q4, more work has to be done to confirm it as interstellar.

    “This is not the first object since 2017/1I, better known as ‘Oumuamua, to show a hyperbolic orbit,” Michele Bannister, a planetary astronomer at Queen’s University Belfast, tweeted on Wednesday.

    Bannister noted that with such limited observations, an object could appear to have a rare interstellar orbit but later turn out to have an orbit within our solar system.

    “Sometimes, we just have to wait for the motion of the heavens. And make…more observations,” she added.

    Currently, those observations aren’t easy to get, Hainaut said. C/2019 Q4 is positioned close to the sun, placing it close to Earth’s horizon and giving astronomers a very limited window of time before dawn to study it.

    “It’s hard to see, but we have the best guys doing astrometry, trying to measure its position in the sky,” he said. “It could be a few days or a few weeks before we have enough data to definitively say.”

    If C/2019 Q4 does turn out to be a second interstellar object, that would bode well for a mission Hainaut is proposing to send robotic probes into space to intercept future objects like this.

    “One of the main issues is: How many of these are there? If we detect one every century, it’s hard to plan a mission to intercept one,” he said.

    On the other hand, if these objects come every couple of years, astronomers might even be able to get choosy about which object to intercept.

    “This suggests we can afford to wait one or two or three years to get the right one, and maybe not the first one we spot after organizing a mission,” Hainaut said.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 11:06 am on September 26, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ‘Oumuamua, , ,   

    From European Space Agency: “Gaia finds candidates for interstellar ‘Oumuamua’s home” 

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    From European Space Agency

    25 September 2018

    Timo Prusti
    Gaia Project Scientist
    European Space Agency
    Email: timo.prusti@esa.int

    Coryn Bailer-Jones
    Max Planck Institute for Astronomy
    Heidelberg, Germany
    Tel: +49 6221 528224
    Email: calj@mpia.de

    Markus Bauer








    ESA Science and Robotic Exploration Communication Officer









    Tel: +31 71 565 6799









    Mob: +31 61 594 3 954









    Email: markus.bauer@esa.int

    1
    Artist’s impression of ‘Oumuamua. Credit: ESO / M. Kornmesser. Phys.org

    Using data from ESA’s Gaia stellar surveyor, astronomers have identified four stars that are possible places of origin of ‘Oumuamua, an interstellar object spotted during a brief visit to our Solar System in 2017.

    ESA/GAIA satellite

    The discovery last year sparked a large observational campaign: originally identified as the first known interstellar asteroid, the small body was later revealed to be a comet, as further observations showed it was not slowing down as fast as it should have under gravity alone. The most likely explanation of the tiny variations recorded in its trajectory was that they are caused by gasses emanating from its surface, making it more akin to a comet.

    But where in the Milky Way did this cosmic traveller come from?

    Comets are leftovers of the formation of planetary systems, and it is possible that ‘Oumuamua was ejected from its home star’s realm while planets were still taking shape there. To look for its home, astronomers had to trace back in time not only the trajectory of the interstellar comet, but also of a selection of stars that might have crossed paths with this object in the past few million years.

    “Gaia is a powerful time machine for these types of studies, as it provides not only star positions but also their motions,” explains Timo Prusti, Gaia project scientist at ESA.

    To this aim, a team of astronomers led by Coryn Bailer-Jones at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, dived into the data from Gaia’s second release, which was made public in April.


    The Gaia data contain positions, distance indicators and motions on the sky for more than a billion stars in our Galaxy; most importantly, the data set includes radial velocities – how fast they are moving towards or away from us – for a subset of seven million, enabling a full reconstruction of their trajectories. The team looked at these seven million stars, complemented with an extra 220 000 for which radial velocities are available from the astronomical literature.

    As a result, Coryn and colleagues identified four stars whose orbits had come within a couple of light years of ‘Oumuamua in the near past, and with relative velocities low enough to be compatible with likely ejection mechanisms.

    All four are dwarf stars – with masses similar to or smaller than our Sun’s – and had their ‘close’ encounter with the interstellar comet between one and seven million years ago. However, none of them is known to either harbour planets or to be part of a binary stellar system; a giant planet or companion star would be the preferred mechanism to have ejected the small body.

    While future observations of these four stars might shed new light on their properties and potential to be the home system of ‘Oumuamua, the astronomers are also looking forward to future releases of Gaia data. At least two are planned in the 2020s, which will include a much larger sample of radial velocities, enabling them to reconstruct and investigate the trajectories of many more stars.

    “While it’s still early to pinpoint ‘Oumuamua’s home star, this result illustrates the power of Gaia to delve into the history of our Milky Way galaxy,” concludes Timo.

    Science paper:
    Plausible home stars of the interstellar object ‘Oumuamua found in GaiaDR2 by C.A.L. Bailer-Jones et al is accepted in The Astronomical Journal.

    See the full article here .


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    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 9:44 am on April 11, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ‘Oumuamua, , , ,   

    From ICRAR via Curtin University: “Outback radio telescope listens in on interstellar visitor” 

    ICRAR Logo
    International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research

    Curtin University

    10 April 2018

    Lucien Wilkinson
    Media Consultant
    Tel: +61 8 9266 9185
    Mob: +61 401 103 683
    lucien.wilkinson@curtin.edu.au

    Hailey Ross
    Media Relations Manager, Public Relations
    Tel: +61 8 9266 3357
    Mob: +61 478 310 708
    hailey.ross@curtin.edu.au

    A telescope in outback Western Australia has been used to listen to a mysterious cigar-shaped object that entered our Solar System late last year.

    The unusual object – known as ‘Oumuamua – came from another solar system, prompting speculation it could be an alien spacecraft.

    1
    This artist’s concept depicts ‘Oumuamua, which recently swung by the Sun during a quick pass through our solar system. Though initially believed to be a comet from another star system, further study revealed the object was actually an interstellar asteroid, which astronomers previously thought were much more rare. ESO/M. Kommesser.

    So astronomers went back through observations from the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) telescope to check for radio transmissions coming from the object between the frequencies of 72 and 102MHz – similar to the frequency range in which FM radio is broadcast.

    SKA Murchison Widefield Array, Boolardy station in outback Western Australia, at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO)

    While they did not find any signs of intelligent life, the research helped expand the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI) from distant stars to objects closer to home.

    When ‘Oumuamua was first discovered, astronomers thought it was a comet or an asteroid from within the Solar System. But after studying its orbit and discovering its long, cylindrical shape, they realised ‘Oumuamua was neither and had come from interstellar space.

    Telescopes around the world trained their gaze on the mysterious visitor in an effort to learn as much as possible before it headed back out of the Solar System, becoming too faint to observe in detail.

    John Curtin Distinguished Professor Steven Tingay, from the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), said the MWA team did not initially set out to find ‘Oumuamua.

    “We didn’t set out to observe this object with the MWA but because we can see such a large fraction of the sky at once, when something like this happens, we’re able to go back through the data and analyse it after the fact,” Professor Tingay said.

    “If advanced civilizations do exist elsewhere in our galaxy, we can speculate that they might develop the capability to launch spacecraft over interstellar distances and that these spacecraft may use radio waves to communicate.

    “Whilst the possibility of this is extremely low, possibly even zero, as scientists it’s important that we avoid complacency and examine observations and evidence without bias.”

    The MWA is located in Western Australia’s remote Murchison region, one of the most radio quiet areas on the planet and far from human activity and radio interference caused by technology.

    It is made up of thousands of antennas attached to hundreds of “tiles” that dot the ancient landscape, relentlessly observing the heavens day after day, night after night.

    Professor Tingay said the research team was able to look back through all of the MWA’s observations from November, December and early January, when ‘Oumuamua was between 95 million and 590 million kilometres from Earth.

    “We found nothing, but as the first object of its class to be discovered, `Oumuamua has given us an interesting opportunity to expand the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence from traditional targets such as stars and galaxies to objects that are much closer to Earth.

    “This also allows for searches for transmitters that are many orders of magnitude less powerful than those that would be detectable from a planet orbiting even the most nearby stars.”

    ‘Oumuamua was first discovered by the Pan-STARRS project at the University of Hawaii in October.

    Pann-STARS telescope, U Hawaii, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA, 4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

    Its name loosely means “a messenger that reaches out from the distant past” in Hawaiian, and is the first known interstellar object to pass through our Solar System.

    Combining observations from a host of telescopes, scientists have determined that `Oumuamua is most likely a cometary fragment that has lost much of its surface water because it was bombarded by cosmic rays on its long journey through interstellar space.

    Researchers have now suggested there could be more than 46 million similar interstellar objects crossing the Solar System every year.

    While most of these objects are too far away to study with current technologies, future telescopes such as the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) will enable scientists to understand more about these interstellar interlopers.

    “So once the SKA is online, we’ll be able to look at large numbers of objects and partially balance out the low probability of a positive detection,” Professor Tingay said.

    ***This media release was issued by ICRAR***

    See the full article here .

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    Curtin is ranked in the top one per cent of universities worldwide in the prestigious Academic Ranking of World Universities 2017.

    We are WA’s most preferred university and are globally recognised for our strong connections with industry, high-impact research and wide range of innovative courses. We are also WA’s largest and most multicultural university, welcoming more than 52,000 students, around a third of whom come from a country other than Australia.

    ICRAR is an equal joint venture between Curtin University and The University of Western Australia with funding support from the State Government of Western Australia. The Centre’s headquarters are located at UWA, with research nodes at both UWA and the Curtin Institute for Radio Astronomy (CIRA).
    ICRAR has strong support from the government of Australia and is working closely with industry and the astronomy community, including CSIRO and the Australian Telescope National Facility, <a
    ICRAR is:

    Playing a key role in the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, the world's biggest ground-based telescope array.

    Attracting some of the world’s leading researchers in radio astronomy, who will also contribute to national and international scientific and technical programs for SKA and ASKAP.
    Creating a collaborative environment for scientists and engineers to engage and work with industry to produce studies, prototypes and systems linked to the overall scientific success of the SKA, MWA and ASKAP.

    Murchison Widefield Array,SKA Murchison Widefield Array, Boolardy station in outback Western Australia, at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO)

    A Small part of the Murchison Widefield Array

    Enhancing Australia’s position in the international SKA program by contributing to the development process for the SKA in scientific, technological and operational areas.
    Promoting scientific, technical, commercial and educational opportunities through public outreach, educational material, training students and collaborative developments with national and international educational organisations.
    Establishing and maintaining a pool of emerging and top-level scientists and technologists in the disciplines related to radio astronomy through appointments and training.
    Making world-class contributions to SKA science, with emphasis on the signature science themes associated with surveys for neutral hydrogen and variable (transient) radio sources.
    Making world-class contributions to SKA capability with respect to developments in the areas of Data Intensive Science and support for the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory.

     
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