Why Didn't 'Oumuamua Hit The Sun?

If Oumuamua has come from so far away, and in it’s final approach was primarily attracted by the Sun, why didn’t it hit the Sun? Were the gravitational forces of other planets sufficient to make it miss?
This artist’s impression shows the first interstellar asteroid: `Oumuamua. This unique object was discovered on 19 October 2017 by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawai`i. Subsequent observations from ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile and other observatories around the world show that it was traveling through space for millions of years before its chance encounter with our star system. Image credit: European Southern Observatory/M. Kornmesser

This artist’s impression shows the first interstellar asteroid: `Oumuamua. This unique object was discovered on 19 October 2017 by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawai`i. Subsequent observations from ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile and other observatories around the world show that it was traveling through space for millions of years before its chance encounter with our star system. Image credit: European Southern Observatory/M. Kornmesser

The answer to this question lies in how gravity acts over large distances, with a bit of interstellar aiming thrown in for flavor.

On the surface of planet Earth, the force of gravity is pretty much a constant through our entire lives. We recognize it as the influence which grounds us to the surface of our planet - but it remains a constant feature...

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What Would Have Happened To That Interstellar Object If It Had Hit The Sun?

What would have happened if A/2017 U1 had hit or grazed the sun? Would we have noticed?
This animation shows the path of A/2017 U1, which is an asteroid — or perhaps a comet — as it passed through our inner solar system in September and October 2017. From analysis of its motion, scientists calculate that it probably originated from outside of our solar system. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This animation shows the path of A/2017 U1, which is an asteroid — or perhaps a comet — as it passed through our inner solar system in September and October 2017. From analysis of its motion, scientists calculate that it probably originated from outside of our solar system. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The snappily-named object A/2017 U1 may be more familiar to you as the interstellar visitor that zipped through our solar system at nearly 16 miles per second, discovered in mid-October. It has now been given a less alphanumeric name...

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Can You Make An Object Pretend It Has Less Mass Than It Does?

Speed can make objects act as if they have more mass, but can you ever make an object appear to have less mass?
A NASA DC-9 reduced-gravity aircraft is featured in this image during a parabolic flight photographed from a T-38 aircraft. Image credit: NASA

A NASA DC-9 reduced-gravity aircraft is featured in this image during a parabolic flight photographed from a T-38 aircraft. Image credit: NASA

It’s true that speeding an object up to considerable fractions of the speed of light will make things behave like they are more massive than they do when they’re moving at slower, more human, speeds. But going the other direction is not...

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How Do We Track Photons Through Space?

When a particle moves through spacetime, how do we know it is the same particle and not some excitation that is passed from place to place?
Wispy tendrils of hot dust and gas glow brightly in this ultraviolet image of the Cygnus Loop Nebula, taken by NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer. The nebula lies about 1,500 light-years away, and is a supernova remnant, left over from a massive stellar explosion that occurred 5,000-8,000 years ago. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Wispy tendrils of hot dust and gas glow brightly in this ultraviolet image of the Cygnus Loop Nebula, taken by NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer. The nebula lies about 1,500 light-years away, and is a supernova remnant, left over from a massive stellar explosion that occurred 5,000-8,000 years ago. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

We don’t! This is a really interesting feature of our universe, and it comes from the observation that all subatomic particles are described by a few key properties, but are otherwise completely and utterly...

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Can A Star Ever Turn Its Spin Backwards?

Can a star reverse its rotational direction during some time in their life, and if so, how would it affect any planets around it?
This artist’s impression of the water snowline around the young star V883 Orionis, as detected with ALMA. Image credit: A. Angelich (NRAO/AUI/NSF)/ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)

This artist’s impression of the water snowline around the young star V883 Orionis, as detected with ALMA. Image credit: A. Angelich (NRAO/AUI/NSF)/ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)

The stars in the night sky all have their preferred direction of rotation, which depends directly on the exact way that the cloud of gas and dust that the star formed out of collapsed. If there was slightly more ...

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