An unknown object is just passing through our solar system. Will We Try to Catch It?

One day ago we witnessed one of the greatest recent scientific discoveries when the asteroid from another planetary system – 1I / 2017 U1 ('Oumauma) – found in the Solar System

It was the first time we ever saw an interstellar visitor, which marks a rare event in the history of astronomy. And he asked us if we could visit an asteroid to study it

This is what a group called the Interstellar Studies Institute (i4is) is thinking of. In an article published on, we have studied various ways we can capture and study this rare object.

"The first definitive interstellar object 1I / 'Oumauma (formerly A / 2017 U1) detected in the Solar System provides the possibility of direct study of materials from other star systems," they write. "Can such objects be intercepted?"

Now, the big problem is that this object is rapidly leaving the Solar System at about 138,000 km per hour. It is expected to slow down to 95,000 km per hour but this is still a problem.

Our current fastest aircraft is Voyager 1, which comes out of the Solar System at 61.200 km per hour. But it took him several years to achieve this speed; The fastest launcher was New Horizons, with a speed of 58,536 km per hour.

Of course, they are not fast enough to catch Oumuamua. But i4is looked at the figures of the current and new technology that could be capable of doing so within five to 30 years.

Using an existing chemical plant, combined with Jupiter's forearm, says it could be possible to reach an object. It will require a lot of fuel, so we should use the upcoming heavy-lift rocket such as SpaceX's BFR or NASA's SLS to succeed.

We think that 'Oumuamua looks like a cigar. ESO / M. Kornmesser

"One potential architecture of the mission is to use the SpaceX Rocket Big Falcon (BFR) and their fuel-filling technology in the universe with the date of launch in 2025," they write.

"To achieve the required hyperbolic excess speed (at least 30km / s [108.000km/h]), Jupiter's fracture is combined with close solar flight (up to 3 solar radios)."

If this launch occurred in 2025, the aircraft that would use this method at 252,000 km per hour could intercept the asteroid 'Oumuamua in 2039 at a distance of 85 AJ (astronomical units, 1 AJ is equal to the average Earth distance of Sun), which is twice as high as the orbit of Pluto at 70 km / s. At 144,000 km per hour, the object can be intercepted in 2051 at a distance of 155 AJ

Given that it will not be possible to slow down at these speeds and thus enter the orbit of the asteroid, i4 suggests that the mission could carry the impact that would hit the asteroid. A motherboard could observe the dust cloud obtained to find out what it was made of.

Would SpaceX missile BFR could help us catch 'Oumuamuu? SpaceX

Another interesting option is the use of solar or laser sailing technology. Project Breakthrough Starshot is currently studying the latter to send a tiny bull to the nearest star, Proxima Centauri. Similar technology could be used here too.

With the launch in 2021, researchers say that with a 2.7-megawatt laser beam, they can reach Oumuamua for seven years. This probe would have only one gram in size, so the science would be limited, but with a larger laser can be sent a larger probe. "

"But with such laser radiation infrastructure, hundreds or even thousands of probes can be sent," researchers said.

"Such a rocket architecture or distributed architecture would enable data to be collected within a larger scope of search, without the limitation of a monolithic aircraft."

This paper is currently only case study, so none of these plans have yet to be launched. But i4is plans to choose two or three most promising concepts and study them further.

Even if we miss Oumuamua, astronomers now think that interstellar objects go through the solar system every year. If we notice the next time one of them, we might have a mission ready for interception.

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