An artist's illustration of the first interstellar asteroid, `Oumuamua. Credit: European Southern Observatory

When a rocky interstellar object now known as 'Oumuamua was first detected in our solar system in October, it was thought to be an asteroid. Now, astronomers say it could be a comet whose core has withstood intense heat from the Sun thanks to a thick crust that insulated it, Science News reports.

Why it matters: Most objects that move between solar systems are thought to be comets so there was excitement that the presumed asteroid 'Oumuamua could help researchers to better understand how other solar systems formed. "Everybody's been assuming that this is just a lump of rock," study author Alan Fitzsimmons of Queen's University Belfast in Northern Ireland told Science News. "This may not be the case."

Comets v. asteroids: Unlike typically rocky asteroids, comets have an icy core that warms as they pass close to the Sun and releases gas and dust seen as a tail. 'Oumuamua traveled close to the Sun but had no tail which led researchers to first believe it was an asteroid.

The evidence: The spectrum of light reflected by 'Oumuamua's surface "similar to organically rich surfaces found in the outer Solar System," the authors wrote. "An internal icy composition cannot therefore be ruled out..." despite it passing close to the Sun and not producing a tail.

Go deeper

Post-debate poll finds Biden strong on every major issue

Joe Biden speaks Friday about "The Biden Plan to Beat COVID-19," at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

This is one of the bigger signs of trouble for President Trump that we've seen in a poll: Of the final debate's seven topics, Joe Biden won or tied on all seven when viewers in a massive Axios-SurveyMonkey sample were asked who they trusted more to handle the issue.

Why it matters: In a time of unprecedented colliding crises for the nation, the polling considered Biden to be vastly more competent.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
4 hours ago - Science

The murder hornets are here

A braver man than me holds a speciment of the Asian giant hornet. Photo: Karen Ducey/Getty Images

Entomologists in Washington state on Thursday discovered the first Asian giant hornet nest in the U.S.

Why it matters: You may know this insect species by its nom de guerre: "the murder hornet." While the threat they pose to humans has been overstated, the invading hornets could decimate local honeybee populations if they establish themselves.

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