The Atlantic

The Icy Secrets of an Interstellar Visitor

The mysterious space object 'Oumuamua may harbor ice under a crust hardened by cosmic radiation.
Source: ESO / M. Kornmesser

To telescopes, ‘Oumuamua, the interstellar asteroid that made itself known to Earth in October, looks like a point of light in the dark, much like a star in the night sky—a perhaps underwhelming picture of a significant discovery.

But for astronomers, the tiny speck—the sunlight reflected by the asteroid—can reveal a trove of information. They can break down the light from an object into a spectrum of individual wavelengths, from which they can infer the object’s shape, chemical composition, and other

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic4 min readTech
Elon Musk’s Next Wild Promise
If someone is going to revolutionize what it means to be human, do we want it to be a tech titan?
The Atlantic3 min readTech
What Amazon Thinks You’re Worth
Shoppers were offered a $10 credit in exchange for handing over their browser data. It’s an investment that pays dividends for Amazon.
The Atlantic2 min readSociety
He Killed an Unarmed Man, Then Claimed Disability
City leaders in Mesa, Arizona, operate a municipality where the interests of police officers are valued more highly than ordinary citizens, including those the police have wronged. Two years ago, I wrote about Daniel Shaver, an unarmed 26-year-old