ASTRONOMY COLUMN: A cache of 'gems' within the Keystone

Move over, Oumuamua.

Blah, let's not begin this column that way. Though, technically, Oumuamua has moved over; it's somewhere in our solar system, but too faint to see.

I'm talking, of course, about the interstellar visitor that shot its way through the solar system starting in late 2017. Oumuamua was a rock from a distant solar system, one that somehow got detached from its home and hurtled around our sun. The object so fascinated astronomers that some thought that due to its strange shape it could be not a rock, but some sort of artificial object — a ship or probe — scouting our solar system.

There's always a chance that someone somewhere out there would send probes or manned ships to Earth. I think, though, that if Oumuamua had truly been a ship filled with extraterrestrial visitors, it would be grand and readily apparent that's what it was. Not some object that's strangely shaped that could be a spaceship, but, well, probably was not.

Anyhow, now there is a new interloper encroaching on our solar system.

An object — a comet, to be more precise — called C/2019 Q4 was discovered Aug. 30 on a trajectory that points to an origin outside the Sol system.

According to NASA, the comet will go through the inner planet ecliptic plane at about a 40 degree angle. Another clue to its possible origin is that it's traveling extremely fast — 93,000 mph — for an object its distance from the sun.

This is indeed a comet; its fuzzy appearance through telescopes gives away its both gaseous and rocky nature. Remember, comets are "dirty snowballs" traveling around the sun (or to other suns!).

In other words, there will be no debating whether this one is a spaceship.

This newest discovery, if indeed the comet's origin is confirmed, does raise questions though. Just how common are visits from objects outside our solar system? And where are they all coming from? Furthermore, what is it that brings these objects into our neck of the woods?

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Malan is entertainment editor and astronomy columnist for the News & Eagle.

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Entertainment Editor | Copy Editor | Astronomy Writer

Hi, I'm Joe. I've been with the Enid News & Eagle since June 2009. I design many of the pages you see each week in your newspaper. I love writing and talking about space, and I love listening to and writing about music as well.

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