Order. Order. I’d like to call this meeting on Recent Astronomical Events of Some Newsworthiness to order.
First, a housekeeping item. Longtime readers of The Prompt may recall that I wrote a piece back in late 2016 about a mysterious star that could be home to an alien megastructure. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but astronomers have decided that the strange observations prompting the “aliens hypothesis” can be explained using dust alone.
So that’s a real bummer.
Speaking of space dust, you might be interested to know that astronomers and physicists have just confirmed that we have more than one moon. Two in fact, according to this National Geographic headline: Earth has two extra, hidden ‘moons’.
Wait, what? Two new moons!? What is this, Endor?
Alas, that title is a bit misleading. According to the article, these new ‘moons’ are actually giant clouds of space dust. They were predicted back in 1961, it’s just that they are so hard to see that it took another 60 years to finally prove they were real. Are they really ‘moons’ in any meaningful sense? Well, if you go with the strict definition of a moon as a celestial body that makes an orbit around a planet—then, I suppose it depends on your definition of celestial body.
But if you assumed, as I did, that the discovery of two new moons equates to seeing this in the night sky:
Then you are out of luck.
Look, I know at this point you are probably feeling pretty down on space news. The alien megastructures and the new moons we’d been promised have both been reduced to space dust. But do not fret, dear reader. I have one more story up my sleeve.
This story starts back in 2017, when astronomers discovered a strange interstellar object gliding through our solar system. The object—with the foreboding and culturally appropriated name Oumuamua (meaning ‘scout’ in Hawaiian) honestly looks like it came from another galaxy. Which it apparently did, or at least, it came from somewhere outside of our solar system.
Well Oumuamua came and went and for the last year there’s been little more news about it. But a couple weeks ago a pair of researchers at Harvard dropped a paper analyzing the observational data on the strange object. Their conclusion? Oumuamua might be AN ALIEN SPACECRAFT!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Well, technically they say that Oumuamua could be a “lightsail of artificial origin.” But that’s just a buttoned up way of saying ALIENS ALMOST DEFINITELY MADE THIS THING!
What do other astronomers think of this idea? Rober Weryk, who first discovered Oumuamua in an observatory in Hawaii, called the Harvard duo’s claim “a bit of wild speculation.”
Even if this alien spaceship thing doesn’t pan out, we at least have ourselves the makings of a bonafide East Coast / (Super) West Coast Astronomical Rivalry.
For now, that’s all your humble correspondent has from the world of astronomical news. If it turns out to be aliens—I’ll be sure to post an update on this very website.