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The Feasibility and Benefits of In Situ Exploration of `Oumuamua-like objects

Status Report From: arXiv.org e-Print archive
Posted: Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Darryl Seligman, Gregory Laughlin
(Submitted on 19 Mar 2018)

A rapid accumulation of observations and interpretation have followed in the wake of 1I `Oumuamua's passage through the inner Solar System. We briefly outline the consequences that this first detection of an interstellar asteroid implies for the planet-forming process, and we assess the near-term prospects for detecting and observing (both remotely and in situ) future Solar System visitors of this type. Drawing on detailed heat-transfer calculations that take both `Oumuamua's unusual shape and its chaotic tumbling into account, we affirm that the lack of a detectable coma in deep images of the object very likely arises from the presence of a radiation-modified coating of high molecular weight material (rather than a refractory bulk composition). Assuming that `Oumuamua is a typical representative of a larger population with a kinematic distribution similar to Population I stars in the local galactic neighborhood, we calculate expected arrival rates, impact parameters and velocities of similar objects and assess their prospects for detection using operational and forthcoming facilities. Using `Oumuamua as a proof-of-concept, we assess the prospects for missions that intercept interstellar objects (ISOs) using conventional chemical propulsion. Using a "launch on detection" paradigm, we estimate wait times of order 10 years between favorable mission opportunities with the detection capabilities of the Large-Scale Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), a figure that will be refined as the population of interstellar asteroids becomes observationally better constrained.

Comments:    Accepted to AJ, 13 pages, 8 figures
Subjects:    Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as:    arXiv:1803.07022 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1803.07022v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Darryl Seligman 
[v1] Mon, 19 Mar 2018 16:31:59 GMT (470kb,D)
https://arxiv.org/abs/1803.07022

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