A bizarre, fast-moving rock with the "proportions of a giant cucumber" has entered our solar system, becoming the first stony object of its sort ever observed zipping through the Milky Way, The Washington Post writes. As if the interstellar passerby wasn't exciting enough, extraterrestrial researchers are gearing up for what could be the observation of a lifetime — proof that intelligent life exists beyond our own little corner of the universe.
"The possibility that this object is, in fact, an artificial object — that it is a spaceship, essentially — is a remote possibility," explained the director of the Berkeley Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Research Center, Andrew Siemion.
Researchers have named the rock 'Oumuamua, the Hawaiian word for "messenger." 'Oumuamua's strange "behavior" is what has some researches thinking it could be more than just an ordinary quarter-mile-long cosmic pebble:
Planets and asteroids circle the sun on the same plane, like water swirling around a basin. 'Oumuamua dipped into the solar system from outside the plane, as if leaked from a cosmic faucet.
It is shaped strangely, too. Most asteroids of this size are spherical. This object has the proportions of a giant cucumber. In fact, Harvard University astronomer Avi Loeb recently told [Russian billionaire Yuri Milner] that 'Oumuamua has the optimal design of a vessel meant to travel through space, The Atlantic reported. [The Washington Post]
To get ready for the event, scientists announced that they will be pointing highly sophisticated radio telescopes at the space rock to pick up if it is using technology to reach its speeds of up to 196,000 miles per hour. The devices are so sophisticated, in fact, that "if an electronic device no more powerful than a WiFi router or telephone handset is transmitting on 'Oumuamua, the telescope will be able to sense it," the Post writes. Read more about the 'Oumuamua visitation here. Jeva Lange
Editor's note: This post originally mischaracterized the location of the space rock. It has since been corrected. We regret the error.
Investigators still do not know why Stephen Paddock shot and killed 58 people during an outdoor music festival in Las Vegas last October, CBS News reports. In a press conference Friday, authorities conceded that three months of investigation had not yielded any findings on Paddock's motivations, though Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo did emphasize that Paddock acted alone and that his girlfriend — who was at one point suspected of helping him — would not be charged with any crime.
During the press conference, Lombardo also discussed a newly released 81-page report that examined Paddock's actions in the months leading up to the shooting, which was the deadliest in modern American history. The evidence indicated Paddock had been planning an attack for a while; investigators found he purchased over 50 firearms in the 12 months leading up to the shooting, and that he had studied the response strategies of various law enforcement departments.
Lombardo noted that "disturbing" internet searches Paddock had conducted indicated he may have considered carrying out the attack at other concerts or at beaches in California, CBS News reported. Investigators also found child pornography on Paddock's computer.
The Justice Department said Friday that it intends to retry Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) after his corruption trial ended in a mistrial in November. Menendez, 63, was accused of taking luxury gifts, trips, and campaign donations from his friend and donor, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, in exchange for government favors. One juror afterwards told reporters that the deadlock was 10-2 in favor of acquittal, Politico writes.
"An early retrial date is in the best interests of the public, and the United States is available to schedule a retrial at the Court's earliest convenience," the Justice Department wrote in its filing Friday.
Menendez's 11-week trial was the first prosecution of a sitting senator in decades. He is up for re-election this year. Jeva Lange
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) has responded to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) dismissively referring to him as "sort of the Steve King of the Senate," a reference to one of the House's most outspoken immigration hardliners.
"All I can say is we're not going to end family immigration for DACA," Graham had told MSNBC earlier Friday. "The Tom Cotton approach has no viability here. You know, he's become sort of the Steve King of the Senate."
Cotton was not amused. "The difference between Steve King and Lindsey Graham is that Steve King can actually win an election in Iowa," he told reporters, jabbing at Graham's short-lived campaign for the Republican nomination. "He didn't make it off the starting line, he didn't even make it off the kiddy table debates."
Tom Cotton: "The difference between Steve King and Lindsey Graham is Steve King can actually win an election in Iowa."
Reporters actually went "oooooh" after.
— Paul McLeod (@pdmcleod) January 19, 2018
President Trump and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) met in a rare private meeting Friday afternoon in a last-ditch attempt to negotiate a budget ahead of the looming midnight deadline. Aides said that Republican congressional leaders were not in attendance.
"We made some progress but we still have a good number of disagreements," Schumer told reporters afterward. "The discussion will continue."
Schumer speaks out after "long and detailed" meeting with Pres. Trump over shutdown: "We made some progress but we still have a number of disagreements," adds "the discussions will continue." pic.twitter.com/1mxnOWcatG
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) January 19, 2018
While the House passed a bill Thursday to keep the government funded until Feb. 16, it is widely thought that the measure will not pass the Senate, where it needs 60 votes. Democrats have refused to support a funding measure that does not protect young undocumented immigrants.
Congress has nine hours to agree on a budget before the government shuts down at midnight. Jeva Lange
The Supreme Court confirmed Friday that it will consider the legality of President Trump's travel ban, which restricts travel to the United States from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad, and North Korea, and for certain government officials from Venezuela, The New York Times reports.
Six of the eight nations targeted by the ban are predominately Muslim. A lawsuit filed by Hawaii legally challenged the ban, which was issued in September, and succeeded before a federal district court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
The Supreme Court has signaled it could be amenable to Trump's ban, which is the third of its kind to be issued by the Trump administration. Oral arguments could begin as soon as April. Jeva Lange
Compared to a pet rock, a marimo moss ball ($14 for six) might strike you as a lively companion. Each small green orb is made of living algae that grows in a sphere, and when cared for, it will grow larger ever so slowly and can live 100 years. Though marimo, or "ball seaweed," grows in lakes throughout the Northern Hemisphere, the Japanese led the way in bringing the balls home and nurturing them. Legend has it that the first marimo balls were the hearts of two star-crossed lovers, and every one since supposedly has the power to discern true love. "All you need is one touch of the plush, velvety surface to get hooked."
James Comey has a new job.
CNN reported Friday that the former FBI director has accepted a professorial gig at William & Mary College, where he will teach a class on ethical leadership. The class starts this fall and will also be offered in the spring and summer semesters of 2019.
Comey was abruptly fired by President Trump last May while overseeing the FBI's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. In a statement about the upcoming class directed at no one in particular, he explained that "ethical leaders lead by seeing above the short term, above the urgent or partisan, and with a loyalty to lasting values, most importantly the truth." Kelly O'Meara Morales