An artist’s illustration of ‘Oumuamua. Credit European Southern Observatory/M. Kornmesser
An artist’s illustration of ‘Oumuamua. Credit European Southern Observatory/M. Kornmesser

Cosmic Queries – ‘Oumuamua

An artist’s illustration of ‘Oumuamua. Credit: European Southern Observatory/M. Kornmesser
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About This Episode

On this episode of StarTalk Radio, Neil deGrasse Tyson, comic co-host Chuck Nice, and cosmochemist and author Dr. Natalie Starkey answer fan-submitted Cosmic Queries about ‘Oumuamua, the first detected interstellar object that passed through the solar system.

To start, Chuck wonders why we even study space rocks if they’re all the “same.” Natalie tells us how studying space rocks helps us understand our solar system when studying Earth only tells us so much. You’ll learn why asteroids might be the leftover building blocks from planets. We ponder what might be hiding in the Oort Cloud and why ‘Oumuamua is basically an interstellar vagabond. 

You’ll find out more about ‘Oumuamua’s discovery and how it got its name. We also talk about the only other interstellar object we’ve documented (so far). What is the likelihood we will see another interstellar object? Natalie explains the difficult task of looking in the right place at the right time since interstellar objects can, literally, come from anywhere. 

How do we differentiate an interstellar comet from a comet that came from the Oort Cloud? We explore the idea of panspermia. Could life survive such a perilous journey similar to ‘Oumuamua’s? Lastly, Natalie helps us understand why ‘Oumuamua’s shape is so peculiar. All that, plus, we ask the obvious question: was it sent by aliens?

Thanks to our Patrons Christopher Sukhanenya, Dmitry Pugachevich, Eugenio Barrera, Colton Cichocki, Brad Sofka, Atle Beckmann, Alex Prieto, Dorothy Papadakos, Steven Bunevitch, and Johnathan Bynog for supporting us this week.

NOTE: StarTalk+ Patrons can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free.

About the prints that flank Neil in this video:

“Black Swan” & “White Swan” limited edition serigraph prints by Coast Salish artist Jane Kwatleematt Marston. For more information about this artist and her work, visit Inuit Gallery of Vancouver.

In This Episode

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