The mysterious, cigar-shaped ‘Oumuamua, an object believed to be the first interstellar visitor to our solar system, might have been born in a two-star, or binary star, system, according to a new paper that offers more interesting details about the object.
As recalled by Gizmodo, ‘Oumuamua, which was named for the Hawaiian word for “scout,” was first discovered in October of 2017, having been spotted at speeds of about 67,100 miles per hour and coming as close to 20.5 million miles away from our planet. Since then, the object’s status as the first of its kind to be spotted in the solar system has been the subject of great interest from scientists, with a new study published in the Monthly Notices Of the Royal Astronomical Society providing more info on its possible origins.
The Gizmodo report described in detail the methodologies used by the researchers, who used computer modeling to analyze the conditions in which an interstellar object could be ejected by its host star or stars. While our solar system usually ejects comets that form a great distance from Earth and aren’t as tied to the sun’s gravity, ‘Oumuamua stood out because researchers had previously concluded that it is more of an asteroid, and not a comet at all, due to its lack of distinctive features associated with the latter objects.
Based on the researchers’ analysis, it’s not too likely that ‘Oumuamua was tossed out by a system with only one star, and neither is it probable that it came from a binary system with weak gravitational forces between the two stars, with both of these stars far apart from each other. Instead, the object might have come from a binary star system of unknown age that was still in its very earliest years, as stars were forming and surrounded by a lot of space dust and debris. The simulations also suggest that the stars in such a system are close to each other, and are less wasteful than one-star systems when it comes to kicking out asteroids or similar objects.
“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,” read a statement from lead researcher Alan Jackson, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Toronto Scarborough’s Centre for Planetary Sciences.
As noted by Scientific American, ‘Oumuamua is now on its way to the outer solar system as of this writing, and since December, even large telescopes have had trouble detecting the object. But since scientists were able to collect a lot of information about the asteroid around the time it was first sighted, there’s a good chance that more details will be revealed, and more questions will be answered about this fascinating object.
“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,” said Jackson.