The Science Channel series "Space's Deepest Secrets" returns tonight (March 19) at 10 p.m. EDT with a look at a mysterious interstellar visitor.
In 2017, scientists spotted a gigantic rocky object, about the size and shape of a skyscraper, hurtling through our solar system. And they soon discovered that this terrific space rock didn't originate within the eight-planet system we call home. Instead, it comes from another solar system. The scientists, who saw the rock through the University of Hawaii's Pan-STARRS1 telescope, called it 'Oumuamua, which means "a messenger from afar arriving first."
"Space's Deepest Secrets" is back this evening with a deep dive into 'Oumuamua. While 'Oumuamua has been briefly classified as both an asteroid and a comet, according to NASA, the show promises to "investigate the mystery of an ancient asteroid" and detail the high-energy race to discover as much as we can about this mysterious rock before it leaves our solar system.
NASA observations suggest that the rocky object (the organization uses "object" since there isn't enough evidence to define it as either an asteroid or a comet) wandered through the Milky Way for hundreds of millions of years before encountering our solar system. In January 2019, it moved beyond Saturn's orbit.
Since 'Oumuamua was a complete unknown when it was discovered in 2017 — the first true alien object, according to one of the astronomers in a new promo for "Space's Deepest Secrets" — scientists are eager to learn more and "unlock its secrets." The show promises to answer: "How did 'Oumuamua get here? Does it pose a threat to the Earth? Could it even be an alien spaceship?"
To address one question: NASA's space telescopes have tracked 'Oumuamua traveling about 85,700 mph (23.8 miles per second, or 38.3 km/s) relative to the sun. At that speed, the episode states, it could destroy whole cities if it were to hit Earth (which it luckily seems like it won't do in our lifetime, given that it's heading out of our solar system). As to whether it's really a spaceship in disguise, you'll have to tune in to see.
But the origin and purpose of a skyscraperesque rock is only the start of the mysteries "Space's Deepest Secrets" will unravel this season. Coming up, according to a statement from the Science Channel, the show plans to tackle the awesome power of mega storms on Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune; the existence of enormous black holes that can rip planets and stars apart; and "evidence of an ancient solar system that could rewrite the story of our cosmic roots."
- If 'Oumuamua Is an Alien Spacecraft, It's Keeping Quiet So Far
- Interstellar Object 'Oumuamua's Surprise Arrival Still Thrills Scientists One Year Later
- Interstellar Object 'Oumuamua Could Be a Comet in Disguise