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Oumuamua: Do we understand its message?

Created by Frank Diebel |

Oumuamua was discovered by the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii on October 19, 2017, when it had already passed the sun on its hyperbolic orbit and was on its way back to interstellar space. The object flew almost perpendicular to the planets in our solar system. Five days earlier, Oumuamua had passed Earth at a distance of about 15 million kilometers.

It is the first interstellar object we observed. And now there is understandably arguing about whether it is an interstellar spaceship, asteroid or a comet. These are important questions, but was that the real message from our extraordinary visitor?

On November 6, 2017, the Minor Planet Center (MPC) confirmed the new designation 1I/ʻOumuamua. The Minor Planet Center is the official organization for the collection, evaluation and publication of data on asteroids, dwarf planets and comets. It also confirms the new discovery of such interstellar objects. 1I/'Oumuamua is a newly introduced classification for this object in the nomenclature of asteroids and comets. The capital letter "I" as the second character in the name stands for interstellar object. The leading number 1 in front of it counts the object as the first found of the mentioned category.

Who is Oumuamua

The exact origin of Oumuamua cannot yet be determined, especially since its trajectory shows non-gravitational influences. However, based on the hyperbolic orbital data, it could be ruled out that the interstellar object comes closer than 11 light years away from one of the star systems. So Oumuamua has been on the road for a very, very long time and does not come from our solar system. So it is actually and indisputably the first interstellar object discovered by humans that crosses our solar system.

Oumuamua means either "leader" or "scout" in Hawaiian. This is supposed to allude to his quality as a “messenger” from a distant past. Since no dust whatsoever could be found in the vicinity of the object, it is assumed that Oumuamua contains no water and consists of rock or metal. Since its surface has presumably become dark due to the billions of years of bombardment with cosmic rays in interstellar space, Oumuamua has a low reflectivity.

We don't remember a politician, we remember Christopher Columbus.

Which great politicians of the late 15th century do we remember when we think back to the times today? Unless we are specialists in this particular period in human history, we probably won't really remember any of them. And maybe that's how we should approach our time today. So who do we all remember?

Regardless of whether we are Americans or Europeans, whether we are Africans or Asians, we all remember this great discoverer: Christopher Columbus. Our spirits may differ over what to think of this man personally, but we remember his accomplishments. He opened up a new continent for us Eurasians and Africans. What we made of it later on, no matter how controversial it was, it was not his fault. The urge to discover, the pioneering spirit, the belief that almost anything is possible, including circumnavigating the earth, has made us who we are today.

Every globalist, every globetrotter, every simple tourist, every business traveler in the world consciously or unconsciously follows in the footsteps of this man, Christopher Columbus - whether we like it or not. I even go so far as to claim that our population growth, that is, the lives of many billions of people, would not have been possible without this spirit of discovery, because we expanded our living space.

For me, this is the real message from Oumuamua: We have to get on our way!

The statement of Harvard professor Avi Loeb, for example, who claims that the simplest explanation for Oumuamua is that it is a solar sail of an instellar starship, may seem absurd at first and also seem transparent in view of his personal research interests. We cannot conclusively judge whether Avi Loeb is right or not. Nevertheless, I follow his view that we must use Oumuamua as an opportunity to revive our pioneering spirit.

It is simply no longer enough to just sit at our desks and pursue blind, dull theory turned away from the world. Instead, we should finally roll up our sleeves again, put on decent shoes and go out and get our hands dirty again in physics and astronomy - set out into the great outdoors and into wild space and simply go back to the world directly examine the object. Only in this way can we overcome the crisis in the natural sciences, indeed the crises of humanity.

Let's just take an example from Columbus, set a large sun sail and follow Oumuamua into the vastness of space.

In any case, the Initiative for Interstellar Studies already started the Lyra Project to assess the feasibility of a mission to Oumuamua. It suggests various options for sending a spaceship to Oumuamua within a period of 5 to 25 years. What is stopping us?

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