MAR 19, 2018 05:16 PM PDT

A Potential Lead on Oumuamua's Origins

Back in October of last year, astronomers observed an interstellar space rock as it zipped through our solar system at break-neck speeds. In fact, said speeds were the most precise indicator apart from its trajectory that it wasn’t native to our solar system.

An artist's rendering of the cigar-shaped Oumuamua.

Image Credit: University of Toronto

Astronomers have since discerned that the interstellar object was an asteroid instead of a comet, and they’ve nicknamed it ‘Oumuamua’ for reference. But while this additional information may be helpful to have, figuring out its origins proved challenging.

A new study appearing in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society this week seems to tackle this longstanding question head-on. While the study doesn’t cite any origin in particular, it does narrow the extensive search.

The astronomers involved in the study say that Oumuamua was likely ejected out of a distant binary star system. They reached this conclusion after considering all possible likelihoods, and they found that rocky bodies like Oumuamua get ejected from binary star systems almost as frequently as comets do.

"It's really odd that the first object we would see from outside our system would be an asteroid because a comet would be a lot easier to spot and the Solar System ejects many more comets than asteroids," said Dr. Alan Jackson from the University of Toronto Scarborough in Ontario, Canada.

Related: FEMA and NASA begin working together to plan for asteroid emergencies

While these findings alone are somewhat substantial, they don’t stop there. The study also reveals how the binary system Oumuamua came from likely contained a hot, high-mass star and that it was in the middle of forming terrestrial exoplanets when Oumuamua became ousted.

Astronomers struggle to study other stellar systems given the distance they are from us, but interstellar space rocks like Oumuamua offer potential clues about planetary formation in these systems. Best of all, they come to us.

"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 added.

Related: Size matters in terms of asteroid collisions

Astronomers are only scratching the surface of the mystery surrounding Oumuamua, but we may learn more as time goes on. It should be interesting to see what we’ll find next.

Source: University of Toronto

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
AUG 14, 2018
Space & Astronomy
AUG 14, 2018
Astronomers Spy Supermassive Black Hole At the Center of An Ultracompact Dwarf Galaxy
It’s not uncommon for astronomers to find supermassive black holes at the center of massive galaxies, but it is somewhat unusual for astronomers to s...
SEP 04, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 04, 2018
This NASA Rocket Will Spend 15 Minutes Gawking at the Sun with X-Ray Vision
NASA is currently eyeballing Friday, September 7th for the third consecutive launch of its Focusing Optics X-ray Solar Imager (FOXSI), a space vehicle spec...
SEP 18, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 18, 2018
Were There Originally Three Magellanic Clouds?
Astronomers recognize the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds as some of the closest galaxies to the Milky Way, but could there have been a third Magellanic...
SEP 19, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 19, 2018
RemoveDebris Spacecraft Successfully Nets a Piece of Space Junk
Experts approximate that there’s around 7.5 metric tons’ worth of space junk swirling around our planet. Most of this junk is comprised of dead...
OCT 09, 2018
Space & Astronomy
OCT 09, 2018
NASA's Voyager 2 Spacecraft is Almost to Interstellar Space
Just over six years ago, NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft became the first man-made object to fly beyond the heliopause and into interstellar space. Fast-...
OCT 17, 2018
Space & Astronomy
OCT 17, 2018
Should We Build a Space Elevator?
Rockets are the primary means of sending cargo to and from space, but chemical burns are incredibly expensive, and this has some firms looking into alterna...
Loading Comments...