Last year, an extraordinary thing happened: for the first time in recorded history, astronomers and astrophysicists observed an interstellar object enter and leave our solar system. Over the years, they’ve documented plenty of comets, asteroids, and other cosmic bodies but all have been gravitationally bound to an orbit within our star system. This object, named ‘Oumuamua, came from outside our system, from a star or molecular cloud tens or even hundreds of millions of light-years away, and then left.
However, the most mysterious aspect of ‘Oumuamua’ was the fact that it seemed to be gaining momentum, as though it were being propelled by some kind of propulsion system. At first, astronomers tried to explain this anomaly away by contending the object was a comet, which is often naturally propelled by the burst of gas caused by melting ice. But ‘Oumuamua didn’t have the tail so common to comets that are outgassing.
So if it wasn’t a comet, how was it demonstrating non-gravitational acceleration through our cosmic neighborhood?
There were other anomalies and unusual characteristics associated with ‘Oumuamua. Why had it just been discovered so recently, when the Pan-STARRS system should have been able to spot it before? Why is its local standard of rest (LSR) frame of reference, motion, and speed so unusual? Why is its extremely elongated, cigar-like shape – with a length up to 10 times larger than its width – so rare and unlikely? Why is its surface so shiny that it reflects brightness 10 times higher than usual asteroids?
But by far, the biggest mystery was determining what was giving ‘Oumuamua that extra push of acceleration, which some scientists believed could indicate an artificial alien origin.
Finally, a new hypothesis emerged that seemed to satisfy all the criteria. Astrophysicists Darryl Seligman and Gregory Laughlin wrote a paper in which they proposed that ‘Oumuamua is a frozen comet comprised almost completely of molecular hydrogen. This would explain, they argued, why its outgassing wasn’t producing a visible comet tail and, more importantly, it would also explain the bursts of acceleration, as “hydrogen icebergs” are theorized to behave in such ways.
“Even though the hydrogen iceberg thing is a little exotic, it explains every single mysterious thing about ‘Oumuamua,” said Seligman in an interview.
But this explanation didn’t sit right with everyone precisely because of this exotic nature: hydrogen icebergs are hypothesized to be extremely rare in the universe.
Now there’s a new twist in the mystery, as astrophysicist/cosmologist Avi Loeb is once again arguing that the hydrogen explanation is unlikely and that it’s just as possible that ‘Oumuamua really is a piece of advanced alien technology, such as a light sail-propelled spaceship. From the beginning, Loeb had argued that the object’s outlandishly rare characteristics made it seem artificial in nature.
The chair of Harvard University’s Astronomy Department has co-written a new article in which he argues that ‘Oumuamua really may be humanity’s first encounter with advanced aliens, even if there are no living biological beings on-board. Loeb attempts to debunk the hydrogen iceberg theory by pointing out that such a large size would not be able to sustain chunks of frozen hydrogen, as starlight would prevent them from sticking together. More importantly, he argues, the journey from a “giant molecular cloud” – the only place where a hydrogen comet could form – would be too long for such an object to have arrived here intact.
Seligman and Laughlin countered by trying to find an origin for ‘Oumuamua, identifying relatively nearby molecular clouds formed 30 million to 45 million years ago.
But Loeb says that doesn’t work either.
“Shortening the distance that that H2 iceberg needs to travel does not solve the problems we outline in our paper, because the H2 iceberg would have formed when its parent planetary system formed, billions of years ago,” and in the time since then the comet would have fallen apart.
Loeb says that as incredible as it may seem, the leading explanation for ‘Oumuamua is that it was created as some kind of transport system or interstellar observatory for an advanced alien species. His forthcoming book “Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth,” will likely expand on his reasons for believing this.
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Video Shows Taliban Taking Joyride in Captured US Blackhawk Helicopter
The rapid fall of Kabul to the Taliban has resulted in a number of surreal sights – from footage of the Islamist group’s fighters exercising at a presidential gym to clips of combatants having a great time on bumper cars at the local fun park.
However, a new video of Taliban members seemingly testing their skills in the cockpit of a commandeered UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter shows the chilling extent to which U.S. wares have fallen into the hands of a group it spent trillions of dollars, and exhaustive resources, to stamp out.
In the new video, shared on Twitter, the front-line utility helicopter can be seen taxiing on the ground at Kandahar Airport in southeastern Afghanistan, moving along the tarmac. It is unclear who exactly was sitting in the cockpit, and the Black Hawk cannot be seen taking off or flying.
It is unlikely that the Taliban have any combatants who are sufficiently trained to fly a UH-60 Black Hawk.
The helicopter, which carries a $6 million price tag, is just a small part of the massive haul that fell into the militant group’s hands after the country’s central government seemingly evaporated on Aug. 14 amid the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops.
Some 200,000 firearms, 20,000 Humvees and hundreds of aircraft financed by Washington for the now-defunct Afghan Army are believed to be in the possession of the Taliban.
The firearms include M24 sniper rifles, M18 assault weapons, anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
Taliban fighters in the elite Badri 313 Brigade have been seen in propaganda images showing off in uniforms and wielding weaponry meant for the special forces units of the Afghan Army.
The U.S. is known to have purchased 42,000 light tactical vehicles, 9,000 medium tactical vehicles and over 22,000 Humvees between 2003 and 2016.
The White House remains unclear on how much weaponry has fallen into Taliban hands, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan admitting last week that the U.S. lacks a “clear picture of just how much missing $83 billion of military inventory” the group has.