"`Oumuamua 1i 2017 U1" by Interpott.nrw Unser Kosmos / CC BY-SA 4.0

1st Interstellar Visitor ‘Oumuamua Is Actually Not That Special

Jan 18, 2019

By Hanneke Weitering

SEATTLE — A cigar-shaped space rock named ‘Oumuamua caused quite a stir when it became the first interstellar visitor discovered in our solar system. Is it an asteroid, a comet or an alien spacecraft? While astronomers continue to work on answering these big questions, one thing has become certain: ‘Oumuamua probably isn’t that special.

In fact, there are likely trillions upon trillions of objects just like ‘Oumuamua drifting through the Milky Way galaxy, Greg Laughlin, an astronomer from Yale University, said during a lecture here at the 233rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society. More precisely, he estimated that there are about 10^26 of them in our galaxy alone.

So, though ‘Oumuamua may be the first and only interstellar visitor astronomers have spotted in the solar system, this kind of interstellar object may not be that rare, astronomers say. Rather, it’s possible we just haven’t seen them, because we haven’t been looking hard enough.

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