Scientists said the mystery of the interstellar comet ‘Oumuamua has been solved

Scientists discovered a strange-looking visitor in our solar system in 2017. It was accelerating in an inexplicable way.

It is called an ice body Oumuamua, which roughly translates to “messenger from afar” or “explorer” in Hawaiian, was unlike any object seen in the solar system. He seemed unusually tall and thin, like a cigar; It had a reddish color and did not create any telltale tail. With more information, planetary scientists now say the interstellar object is “pancake” or plate-shaped.

Unsurprisingly, it’s actually an ice comet, not an alien spacecraft. And researchers now have a pretty good idea of ​​why it accelerated as it traversed our cosmic neighborhood. The explanation is simple, they say:

As the sun heated the comet, the icy body released a specific gas, which accelerated and changed Oumuamua’s projected trajectory through the solar system.

Researchers Jennifer Bergner and Daryl Seligman recently publish their results(Opens in a new tab) in Science Magazine nature. The interpretation was originally Bergner’s idea.

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Seligman said statement(Opens in a new tab). “We had all these stupid ideas, like hydrogen icebergs and other crazy things, and that’s just a more general explanation.”

In 2017, astronomers detected and tracked the stellar object Oumuamua using the University of Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS1 telescope.
Credit: ESO/K.Mech et al

A strange speedy comet

Oumuamua wasn’t just a curious object because of its unusual shape. It was also the first observed visitor from outside our solar system, giving it the unique “interstellar” nickname. More importantly, it did not behave like other comets, which are largely composed of ice. When other comets veer relatively close to the sun, the heat causes them to shoot a trail of water vapor, gas and dust, leaving behind an iconic coma or tail that can move or propel the object. But the tiny ‘Oumuamua, only about 115 meters long, couldn’t shoot that much water, and astronomers couldn’t see any tail.

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so what happened?

Bergner, a chemist at the University of California at Berkeley who studies icy space objects, and Seligman, who researches planetary sciences at Cornell University, suggest that the comet released hydrogen gas into space. Ultimately, this gave the Comet an accelerating kick.

Comet 'Oumuamua's path through our solar system.

Comet ‘Oumuamua’s path through our solar system.
Credit: ESA/Hubble/NASA/ESO/M. Kornmesser

Space is teeming with radiation. When this radiation hits the water ice, it produces hydrogen, which is then trapped on or just below the surface of the comet. Eventually, when sunlight hit Oumuamua, it released the gas.

“For a comet several kilometers across, it would be outgassing from a really thin crust relative to the bulk of the body, so compositionally and in terms of any acceleration, you wouldn’t necessarily expect this to be a detectable effect,” he said. “But because ‘Oumuamua was so small, we think he already produced enough force to power up that acceleration.

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Other solar systems certainly have fast icy bodies, too. After all, the universe is full of water. with The largest and most advanced telescopes(Opens in a new tab), which will come online this decade, astronomers are likely to discover more of these alien interstellar visitors. No, they are not aliens, and they may never be aliens. But they fascinate travelers from the distant worlds of our galaxy.

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