Interstellar Asteroid Oumuamua Had A Violent Past

Posted: Feb 17 2018, 4:24am CST | by , Updated: Feb 17 2018, 4:33am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 
Interstellar Asteroid Oumuamua had a Violent Past, Study Says
Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

The first confirmed object from outside the solar system has been tumbling around chaotically for billions of years

Astronomers recently observed an intriguing asteroid that entered the solar system from outer space, making it the first confirmed interstellar object.

The object, dubbed Oumuamua, was first spotted by the Pan-STARRS survey team in Hawaii on October 19th. Since then, researchers are attempting to piece together a profile of this strange visitor from beyond solar system.

Oumuamua asteriod is about 400 meters long and has a unique cigar or cucumber-like shape. Unlike most asteroids in our solar system, Oumuamua moved remarkably fast and did not spin periodically. Its trajectory was unlike anything seen before.

Now, researchers suggest that the asteroid might have been tumbling or spinning chaotically for billions of years, hinting at a violent past.

"Our modeling of this body suggests the tumbling will last for many billions of years to hundreds of billions of years before internal stresses cause it to rotate normally again,” said Dr. Wes Fraser from Queen's University Belfast.

"While we don't know the cause of the tumbling, we predict that it was most likely sent tumbling by an impact with another planetesimal in its system, before it was ejected into interstellar space."

Observatories further revealed that Oumuamua appears to be dark and rocky with a somewhat reddish hue. However, its color varied between measurements. Latest research shows that its surface is spotty and that when the object was facing telescopes on Earth it was largely red but the rest of the body was neutral colored, like dirty snow.

“Most of the surface reflects neutrally but one of its long faces has a large red region. This argues for broad compositional variations, which is unusual for such a small body,” said Dr Fraser.

“We now know that beyond its unusual elongated shape, this space cucumber had origins around another star, has had a violent past, and tumbles chaotically because of it. Our results are really helping to paint a more complete picture of this strange interstellar interloper. It is quite unusual compared to most asteroids and comets we see in our own solar system.”

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