MAR 19, 2018 5:16 PM PDT

A Potential Lead on Oumuamua's Origins

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

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
JUL 06, 2020
Space & Astronomy
New Technology Can Detect Fast Radio Bursts
JUL 06, 2020
New Technology Can Detect Fast Radio Bursts
Fast radio bursts are intense pulses of energy that come from light years away, popping fir a few milliseconds before di ...
AUG 22, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Are There More Rogue Planets than Stars?
AUG 22, 2020
Are There More Rogue Planets than Stars?
Researchers from Ohio State University have theorized that there may be more rogue planets (planets that don't orbit ...
OCT 03, 2020
Space & Astronomy
NASA Launches $23m Toilet to Space Station
OCT 03, 2020
NASA Launches $23m Toilet to Space Station
On late October 2nd, NASA launched a spacecraft carrying 4 tonnes of cargo, including scientific equipment, food hardwar ...
OCT 10, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Are There Planets Better for Life than Earth?
OCT 10, 2020
Are There Planets Better for Life than Earth?
Researchers have found at least 24 planets outside of our solar system may be better for life than Earth. Each a little ...
OCT 22, 2020
Space & Astronomy
NASA Touches Down on the Surface of an Asteroid for a Sample
OCT 22, 2020
NASA Touches Down on the Surface of an Asteroid for a Sample
There was a time when scientists had to wait for an asteroid to fall to Earth before they could study one.
NOV 20, 2020
Space & Astronomy
The Universe is Getting Hotter, not Cooler, as it Expands
NOV 20, 2020
The Universe is Getting Hotter, not Cooler, as it Expands
Up until now, scientists have theorized that as the Universe expands, its temperature has gradually declined. New resear ...
Loading Comments...