First Known Interstellar Object Changes Speed And Trajectory

Posted: Jul 3 2018, 8:45am CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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First Known Interstellar Object Changes Speed And Trajectory
Image Credit: NASA

Speed Increase Observed In First Known Interstellar Object.

A team of scientists from different countries has been constantly observing the first known interstellar object passing through our solar system, Scientists have named it Oumuamua (spoken as oh-MOO-ah-MOO-ah). Latest observations have confirmed an increase in its speed and change in the trajectory during the last year.

For their observations, the scientists use NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope along with different other observatories located around the world.

“Our high-precision measurements of ′Oumuamua’s position revealed that there was something affecting its motion other than the gravitational forces of the Sun and planets," said Marco Micheli of ESA’s (European Space Agency) Space Situational Awareness Near-Earth Object Coordination Centre in Frascati, Italy, and lead author of a paper describing the team's findings.

According to the co-author of this finding, Davide Farnocchia, who is working with the Near-Earth Object Studies, a branch of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the increased speed of the interstellar object is very similar with other comets.

“This additional subtle force on Oumuamua comet likely is caused by jets of gaseous material expelled from its surface,” said Farnocchia. “This same kind of outgassing affects the motion of many comets in our solar system.”

Whenever a comet passes nearby the Sun, the increased heat causes ejection of gases and dust from their surface, the quantity of the ejected matter always differs from comet to comet.

According to the team of researchers, they did not detect any gas emissions during their observations so they were not expecting the changes in the speed and trajectory of the comet. But Oumuamua only released small amounts of gases that went unnoticed during the observations, but they were still enough to boost its speed and also change the trajectory.

Another astronomer, Karen Meech, working at the University of Hawaii’s Institute of Astronomy, further added that the dust particles on the comet’s surface might have been eroded during its long interstellar journey across the cosmos.

"The more we study ′Oumuamua, the more exciting it gets," Meech said. "I'm amazed at how much we have learned from a short, intense observing campaign. I can hardly wait for the next interstellar object!"

Oumuamua, the comet is expected to be around half a mile long, and it is passing away from the Sun at a speed of 70,000 miles per hour, at present, its distance from Sun is somewhat more than Jupiter’s distance from Sun.

About ʻOumuamua:

ʻOumuamua is a mildly active comet, and the first known interstellar object to pass through the Solar System. Formally designated 1I/2017 U1, it was discovered by Robert Weryk using the Pan-STARRS telescope at Haleakala Observatory, Hawaii, on 19 October 2017, 40 days after it passed its closest point to the Sun. When first seen, it was about 33,000,000 km (21,000,000 mi; 0.22 AU) from Earth (about 85 times as far away as the Moon), and already heading away from the Sun.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/2" rel="author">Luigi Lugmayr</a>
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