Interstellar Asteroid Oumuamua Likely Came from Double Star System

Audrey Hill
March 23, 2018

"The same way we use comets to better understand planet formation in our own solar system, maybe this curious object can tell us more about how planets form in other systems", Jackson said. The study has garnered global headlines.

With a radius of 200 meters and traveling at a blistering speed of 30 kilometers per second, at its closest, it was about 33,000,000 km from Earth. Scientists were also able to determine that these start systems ejected rocky objects in comparable to the number of icy objects.

And, considering there are a sufficient number of these binary systems across the universe, it's not hard to believe 'Oumuamua sputtered out of one-likely during planet formation.

Astronomers testing how efficiently binary systems can eject bodies through gravitational interactions found that rocky objects like 'Oumuamua are much more likely to originate in binary systems and that ejected rocky bodies should be just as common as brighter, easier-to-spot icy comets. The asteroid is now barrelling towards the end of our solar system and has become too small to be studied even with the use of the largest telescopes on the Earth. One question previously posed was whether the object came from a single star system or a two-star system, which is known as a binary system.

Binary stars are typically surrounded by rocky bodies orbiting closely to the prime ejection zone.

Since the end of past year, astronomers have been left puzzled by the object dubbed "Oumuamua - the Hawaiian word for 'scout" - not only being left amiss as to whether it was a comet or asteroid, but where it could have even come from.

The latter is most likely the answer, according to a study recently published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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Although originally classified as a comet, further observations revealed no signs of cometary activity after it passed closest to the Sun in September 2017.

Backtracking its trajectory to the constellation of Lyra indicates that it's been circling the galaxy several times since it was ejected from its home system, with our Solar System being the first it has encountered. For planetary scientists like Jackson, being able to observe objects like these may yield important clues about how planet formation works in other star systems.

"Comets can be thrown out of our solar system by interacting with Jupiter, which is a big object, but we also have some idea that Jupiter-sized planets are not that common", he says.

Instead the new research has suggested Oumuamua may be a lot more alien in origin than initially assumed.

"It's very hard to track exactly where it came from with any great precision", he says.

"It's remarkable that we have now seen for the first time a physical object from outside our solar system", said Alan Jackson from the University of Toronto Scarborough in Canada.

Back in February, a team from Queen's University Belfast helped piece together the puzzle that was its orbit, the most eccentric ever observed by an object travelling through our solar system.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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