It’s confirmed: Interstellar asteroid is an oddball

An artist’s conception shows what the interstellar asteroid ‘Oumuamua might look like. (ESO Illustration / M. Kornmesser)

Scientists say the interstellar asteroid known as ‘Oumuamua is like nothing that’s been seen in the solar system before, with an “extreme oblong shape” that’s as much as 10 times as long as it is wide. The details are laid out in a paper published today by the journal Nature.

Nature’s authors say ‘Oumuamua is relatively dense, possibly with high metal content, lacks significant amounts of water or ice, and shows no signs of dust. They estimate its length to be at least 1,300 feet (400 meters), which is longer than previous estimates.

The size estimate is based on how the light reflected by the object varied over the course of a roughly 7.3-hour rotation period. No direct observations of ‘Oumuamua’s shape could be made, but one can only imagine what conspiracy theorists might come up with.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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