Bob Naeye / journalist
6:30 p.m. — The Bizarre Cigar from Another Star
Planetary astronomers are a prophetic lot. Many of their greatest discoveries are ones that they predicted in advance. Decades ago, astronomers realized that the giant planets have ejected trillions upon trillions of smaller objects from our solar system. These asteroids and comets are now wandering the frigid depths of interstellar space, never to return to their birthplace. Surely, astronomers thought, this process must have occurred around many of our Milky Way’s 200 billion stars. If that’s the case, our galaxy must be filled with enormous numbers of interstellar asteroids and comets. And it’s inevitable that some of these objects will pass through our solar system. Sure enough, in October 2017 a University of Hawaii planetary astronomer captured one of these interstellar interlopers as it raced through the inner solar system at breakneck speed. This started a frantic global observing campaign to study this strange object, later named Oumuamua, before it vanished from sight. Join Robert as he tells the story of the first known interstellar object to pass through the solar system, a strange elongated object that is the bizarre cigar from another star.
Robert Naeye is a former Editor in Chief of Sky & Telescope. Robert earned a master’s degree in science journalism from Boston University in 1992, and later worked on the editorial staffs of Discover and Astronomy magazine. He served as Editor in Chief of Mercury magazine (published by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific) from 2000 to 2003. He worked as a Senior Editor at Sky & Telescope from 2003 to 2007, before moving to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center to work as a Senior Science Writer for the Astrophysics Science Division. He returned to Sky & Telescope in June 2008 to serve as Editor in Chief.
Robert is the author of two books: Through the Eyes of Hubble: The Birth, Life, and Violent Death of Stars (Kalmbach, 1997) and Signals from Space: The Chandra X-ray Observatory (Turnstone, 2000). He has contributed to two other books, and has won several awards for his writing and outreach activities. He has served as an astronomy lecturer on tours to Australia, Chile, China, Easter Island, France, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran, Libya, and the USA. He has spoken many times at AHSP.