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Method has been proposed to catch something similar to ‘Oumuamua

The authors of a new paper published in the journal Planetary and Space Science offered their vision of a mission to study future interstellar objects that will visit the solar system.

Although only two such objects have been accurately discovered, new telescopes will reveal more of them. Scientists believe that a mission to accompany such an object when it leaves the solar system will allow us to find out how our part of space differs from everything that is beyond its borders.

To date, astronomers have confirmed the passage of comet 2I/Borisov and the object Oumuamua through the Solar System. While the interstellar comet is similar to local comets in many ways, ‘Oumuamua is clearly something different.

Hypotheses were floated in light of its unexpected behavior, including fleeting speculation that it might actually have been an alien spacecraft. Astronomers have continued to debate its origin for many years.

The authors of the article believe that in the near future it will be possible to discover new interstellar objects, thanks, for example, to the Vera Rubin Observatory, which will begin operation next year.

It is believed that the new telescope will reveal millions of unknown objects at the edge of the solar system, some of which are definitely from another star system.

An artist’s impression of ‘Oumuamua, which means ‘messenger’ in Hawaiian

Therefore, scientists propose sending a spacecraft to study one of these objects, which will be able to catch up with it, and then accompany it into interstellar space.

Scientists believe that NASA needs to accept this idea, because such a mission will provide the opportunity to obtain a lot of new information about space.

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The authors of the article write that it is unknown exactly how many interstellar objects will be discovered, but they will definitely appear in the Solar System in the near future. Moreover, such objects can fly very close to the Earth, which will make it possible to study them at close range.

For this mission, the device must be launched either from Earth or from space. Simulations show that the interstellar object will be within 1.5 billion km of Earth (roughly the distance to Saturn) within 770 days.

This means that everything must be ready for launch at any time, because it is unknown when a new space wanderer will be discovered in the solar system.

Although launching a spacecraft from Earth, as modeling shows, will be more effective in terms of intercepting an interstellar object, no more than a month should be spent preparing the launch vehicle from the moment of its discovery.

But this is a very short period of time, which means that the launch vehicle must be kept on the launch pad for several years until the space wanderer is discovered.

Therefore, scientists offer another option. They believe that a fully prepared spacecraft should be sent into orbit. When a suitable target is detected, the device will start its engines, use the Earth’s gravity to gain speed and be able to fly to the interstellar object.

The paper is open access in Planetary and Space Science.

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