Where Did Cigar-Shaped Asteroid Actually Come From?

Posted: Jan 6 2018, 11:48am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
Where did Cigar-Shaped Asteroid Actually Come from?
Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

Scientists discover the origin of first interstellar object called Oumuamua

Last October, a mysterious object from outer space entered our solar system. The object, dubbed Oumuamua, was spotted by several Earth-based telescopes and became a source of great interest to astronomers and planetary scientists.

The object had a trajectory unlike anything seen before and follow-up data confirmed that it came from outside our solar system, making it the first interstellar object ever identified.

Scientists already know that Oumuamua is a cigar-shaped space rock. The object is about 400 meters wide and it traveled through space for millions of years before it came close to Earth. Now, scientists have figured out exactly where the mysterious object may have come from.

Based on its trajectory and speed, researchers suggests that Oumuamua probably came from the nearby "Pleiades moving group" of young stars, also known as the "Local Association". It was likely ejected from its home solar system and sent out to travel interstellar space.

“I found the object passed 109 stars within a distance of 16 light years. It went by five of these stars from in the Local Association (a group of young stars likely to have formed together), at a very slow speed relative to their movement. It's likely that when 'Oumuamua was first ejected into space, it was travelling at just enough speed to break away from the gravity of its planet or star of origin, rather than at a much faster speed that would require even more energy. This means we'd expect the object to move relatively slowly at the start of its interstellar journey, and so its slow encounters with these five stars suggests it was ejected from one of the group.” A group of researchers from University of Hertfordshire in England said in a statement.

By observing the color of its surface, researchers also suggest that Oumuamua is a relatively young interstellar object. When objects in space are bombarded with cosmic rays and interstellar dust and gas, the color of their surface gradually alters and becomes very red in color. But Oumuamua has a more neutral dark color, suggesting it has only been impacted by cosmic rays for, at most, hundreds of millions of years rather than for the billions of years.

Oumuamua is the first object of its type ever discovered but it is also possible that there are many such objects hurtling through the solar system. As telescopes get more powerful, researchers will be able to detect them more readily and study their composition in a more detailed manner than ever before.

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