Like most people, I poo. I poo big, fast, small, quiet, privately and almost daily. And, as a poo-er, I’m offended by the breaking news people are claiming the first interstellar object to pass through the solar system, discovered in October, looks like a poo. Unless these scientists are in fact porcupines whose poo, like the asteroid, is 10 times longer than it is wide, I refuse to believe it looks like anything other than a 400m blunt.
An interstellar object is a body that isn’t gravitationally bound to a star, so the aptly named 1I/ʻOumuamua asteroid that has just been discovered is not just out of this world, it’s out of this Solar System! For this reason, I believe the asteroid is of infinite beauty. That’s not just because it’s red like my favourite colour, but it’s a solid piece of intergalactic history that’s doing more than just waving as it passes by.
Its life has no doubt been harsh and filled with violence, birthed from a collision or stellar explosion that caused its ejection from its system of origin. Now it’s been left to fend for itself in a whole new solar system; too small to be a planet and too quick to let it get equated with the other flying rocks in our solar system, with no hope of getting back home.
The best we can do is label it excrement and wait until it leaves us in 20,000 years.
It is right, therefore, to forgive 1I/ʻOumuamua for taking on the dark and unattractive extremity that absorbs 96% of the light that hits it. And what does little 1I/ʻOumuamua get from us, probably the only intelligent life its ever going to come across? A great big slap in the (rock) face.
The best we can do is label it excrement and wait until it leaves us in 20,000 years. Granted, some more respectful astrologers are planning a space mission to reach 1I/ʻOumuamua but at this moment in time our existing craft haven’t got the capacity to land on a rock that’s moving at 196,000 mph (87.7 kilometers a second) so the mission remains hypothetical.
The Hawaiian astronomers who discovered it are optimistic. They named the asteroid Oumuamua, which is the Hawaiian for scout or messenger as if sent from a distant past to reach out to us. And its red colour suggests it carries organic molecules that are building blocks for life.
Watch her dance on by, alone, forever spinning at intergalactic speeds to spread the word of the infinite size of the universe.
Like my almost daily poo, 1I/ʻOumuamua is unfortunately unlikely to be that special as its estimated there could be 10,000 other interstellar objects lurking undetected in our cosmic neighbourhood. But to me she is special – like the plinth in Kubrick’s 2001 she possesses infinite knowledge of universes beyond our imagination; a gem, a memory, a message, perhaps we shouldn’t lay our hands on her. Rather watch her dance on by, alone, forever spinning at intergalactic speeds to spread the word of the infinite size of the universe.
She is a reminder of the unknown beyond us, we may understand why we love music or why a person is sad but we should try to understand this rock is more beautiful than any human creation, we’re nothing, a feeble memory in an ageless universe. Try and digest that.