The shard-like asteroid from deep space which shot through the solar system last years, known as ‘Oumuamua, set many an astronomer’s heart racing. The peculiar body was determined to be the first confirmed interstellar asteroid to have been observed (1). It’s possible, though, that other comets which pursue so-called hyperbolic orbits (moving fast enough to escape the solar system) also have an interstellar origin, rather than having originated from the Oort Cloud. A team of Spanish astrophysicists, who have more than a passing interest in the topic of Planet X, have performed powerful computer simulations to build up a picture of the trajectories and spatial origins of various hyperbolic comets (2). The objects they chose to consider have inbound velocities greater than 1km/s
Following adjustment for the Sun’s own movement through space towards the Solar Apex, interstellar visitors would likely have a more or less random distribution to their radiants (the position in the sky from which they came, rather like meteor showers striking the Earth’s atmosphere). The Spanish team carried out statistical analysis on the emerging sky maps of these radiants, and looked for patterns or clusters of these origin points. Statistically significant patterns did indeed emerge from the data. A particularly large source was located in the zodiacal constellation Gemini. Such a clustering might indicate a number of possibilities, which the astrophysicists explore in their paper.
One possibility is a close flyby of a star in the past which could have disrupted the outer edges of the distant Oort Cloud, sending comets in-bound towards the Sun. Looking at the tracking of candidate flybys in the (by Cosmic standards) relatively recent past, Carlos de la Fuente Marcos, Raul de la Fuente Marcos & S. J. Aarseth argue that there is a possible correlation between this cluster of hyperbolic orbit radiants in Gemini, and a close flyby of a neighbouring binary red dwarf system known as Scholz’s star some 70,000 years ago (2). At a current distance of about 20 light years, Scholz’s star may be a close neighbour to the Sun relatively speaking, but even so it took a while for it to be discovered. This was probably because of a combination of factors: Its proximity to the Galactic plane, its relative dimness, and its slow relative movement across the sky (3). Its distance was less than a light year 70,000 years ago, and its rapid movement away from us in the intervening time helps to explain why it was difficult to detect as a neighbouring binary star: Its retreating motion is mostly along our line of sight, making it difficult to differentiate from background stars. Read More…
Book Review: ‘The Slenderman Mysteries’ by Nick Redfern
Subtitled “An Internet Urban Legend Comes to Life”
New Page Books, 2018
This book about Slenderman contains a great deal on synchronicities. Perhaps it shouldn’t be considered too weird, then, that I picked it up literally just after having watched the X-Files episode entitled ‘Ghouli’. The cult TV episode opens with two teenage girls attacking one another, each believing the other is a multi-limbed monster. Scully looks up Creepypasta on the Internet. Mulder wonders where it’s all going.
I talk about a synchronicity here because the plot device used in this X-Files episode shares themes with a horrifying, real-life crime that occurred in Waukesha, Milwaukee on 31st May 2014. In this shocking case, two children attempted to murder a friend of theirs by stabbing her in some local woods. The two (now convicted) girls appear to have been drawn into a very dark psychological space, involving an Internet phenomenon known as the Slenderman. Fortunately, the victim of the attack survived, although she is left with deep psychological scars. The motive for the frenzied attack remains anything but clear, but the young perpetrators have been sentenced to long stretches in psychiatric institutes.
Slenderman started as a creative meme uploaded to the Creepypasta website by Erik Knudsen, in 2009. His sinister depiction of a tall, pale and faceless man seemed to resonate with many of the website’s fans, and the spooky meme went viral. Redfern charts the genesis of this Internet phenomenon, and draws parallels between Slenderman and other, similar ‘creatures’ from paranormal studies and folklore: The Men-in-Black, the Mothman, the Mad Gasser of Mattoon, the ‘Tall Man’ legend of indigenous American cultures, and various German legends about a Grossmann. The author considers the possibility that the Slenderman is the modern depiction of an old archetype drawn from within the collective unconscious. The perceived (actually, made up) characteristics of this creature involve a sinister, faceless man who lures children into his lair in the woods, to a dark angel, whose array of dark tentacles and elongated limbs can resemble wings; like the Mothman’s. You don’t get the sense that any good will come of any of this. Read More…