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A telescope orbiting the Moon could spy one interstellar visitor per year

30 Aug 2019, 13:08 UTC
A telescope orbiting the Moon could spy one interstellar visitor per year
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An artist’s interpretation of ‘Oumuamua, the first confirmed interstellar object ever observed in our solar system. Image credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser
The Moon might be the best place to hunt for interstellar interlopers.
A Hubble-size telescope orbiting Earth’s nearest neighbour should be able to spot at least one lunar impact per year caused by interstellar meteoroids, a new study suggests.
Such work could reveal a great deal about the population of interstellar objects cruising through our solar system. Scientists know very little about these bodies at the moment, having confirmed the existence of just one: the mysterious ‘Oumuamua, which was spotted in the fall of 2017.
“The value of even one impact is almost immeasurable,” study lead author Amir Siraj, an undergraduate studying astrophysics at Harvard University, told Space.com.
On the hunt
Siraj and co-author Avi Loeb, the chair of Harvard’s astronomy department, have been thinking a lot about the best ways to find more interstellar visitors. For example, the duo recently scoured the fireball database compiled by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), which contains information about hundreds of meteor impacts on Earth over the past three decades.
One of the CNEOS data points stood out, ...

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