A Look-See: Spaceship Oumuamua Seen from Hawaii

Oumuamua in the void of space, Photo: Евгений Харитонов/123RF

Our solar system was visited by an alien spaceship last Thursday. It was first noticed by astronomers at the Hawaii Institute of Astronomy when a sky survey telescope, automatically scanning the heavens for anything that was missed by others, sent out a beeping signal.

Bingo! They were looking at a spaceship. There was no doubt about it. It was in the shape of a cigar, it was about 800 yards long, 80 yards wide, burnt dark-reddish color and, just like in the movies, it was turning very slowly on its axis, completing a full revolution every seven and a half hours. The slow turn would have enabled aliens, if there were any aliens, to look through the windows and see everything all the way around in what I suppose for them would be a seven-and-a-half-hour workday.

And yes, there were windows, or what looked like windows. At the distance it was from Earth—124 million miles away, about the distance between Mars and Jupiter—it was impossible to make out what or who was looking out of those windows. Whatever it was, in any case, was traveling at a leisurely 40,000 miles per hour at a very odd angle. Was it on a sight-seeing mission?

Within half an hour, the astronomers in Hawaii had sent the interlopers’ coordinates to astronomers around the world. This was something very unusual. It wasn’t even from our solar system. Have a look. Everyone did.

At first, nobody thought this was a spaceship. They thought it was just oddly shaped solar system junk. Our solar system is all the time spitting out comets and “asteroids because of the orbits of the biggest planets. But when their computers calculated this ship’s trajectory, they learned that, astonishingly, it had come into our solar system from elsewhere. The computer declared that it had taken an interstellar journey from the star system Vega in the Lyra constellation, literally hundreds of millions of years ago.

NASA Planetary Defense Officer Lindley Johnson told CNN “the sky survey telescope was looking in the right place at the right time to capture this historic moment.”

NASA Associate Administrative Science Mission Director Thomas Zurbuchen said, “This history making discovery is opening a new window to study formation of solar systems beyond our own.”

In Hawaii, the astronomers gave the spaceship a name. They named it Oumuamua, which in Hawaiian means “a messenger that reaches out from the distant path.”

“We continue to track it,” Olivier Hainaut from the European Southern Observatory told CNN. “We hope to pin down where it came from and where it’s going.”

But they couldn’t keep up with it. Those onboard Oumuamua, realizing they had been seen, shifted it into hyper speed and whammo, that was that.

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