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Study Finds Weird Interstellar Object 'Oumuamua Isn't As Big As We Thought

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Jason Vest
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Scientists have learned more about ‘Oumuamua, the hunk of matter that is the first known interstellar object to ever be detected by scientists within the boundary of the solar system.

Specifically, observations performed by researchers using the Spitzer Space Telescope and published in The Astronomical Journal have determined that prior observations likely established too generous an upper boundary on how large it could be.

While prior observations by the University of Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS 1 telescope, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, and ground-based observation stations determined that ‘Oumuamua was no more than 2,600 feet (800 meters) long, NASA wrote in a statement, the Spitzer Space Telescope recently failed to see the object in the infrared spectrum over the course of a two-month survey.

Based on various models of what, exactly, ‘Oumuamua is made out of and how reflective it is, that sets a new upper boundary of 1,440 feet (440 meters), and it might actually be as small as 320 feet (100 metres).

Those numbers refer to the object’s “spherical dimensions,” or how large it would be if it was a sphere – though it is currently believed to be shaped like a cigar.

However, since the non-detection can’t be used to infer shape, the size limits are presented as what ‘Oumuamua’s diameter would be if it were spherical.

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