Scientists were quick to observe the object before its disappearance, moving at 196,000 miles per hour, and their observations caused more questions than answers about the “strange ball,” as the scientists called it.
Now, the latest research indicates that it is part of a Pluto-like planet from another solar system.
After the discovery, the creature was named “Oumuamua, Hawaii” for a messenger from the distant past. Initially, astronomers predicted he would be a comet.
But the dry, reddish-rocky thing stretching out in the shape of a cigar, and as thick as a three-and-a-half-tall city building, had no comet tail, and its dangling motion could not be explained. The debate has arisen over whether it is an interstellar asteroid or a comet.
Of course, there has been speculation that Oumuamua was a type of alien probe.
“Oumuamua was like a comet in many ways, but in many ways it was strange enough that mystery surrounded its nature, and speculation raged about what it was,” Dish, who is also a professor at Arizona State University, said in a statement.
Clues from the impact of the missile
Oumuamua differed from comets in several ways, including the fact that they had a slower velocity when they entered our solar system. Had it been traveling through interstellar space for more than a billion years as a comet, it would have had a higher velocity.
It was flattened like a pie, unlike comets that looked like cosmic snowballs. The object also received a greater boost, known as the “rocket impact,” than what comets experience when their ice evaporates when they encounter the sun.
The researchers wondered if the ‘Oumuamua’ was made of ice of various combinations, which allowed them to calculate how quickly the ice turned into gas when the sun pressed against the object. This also allowed Desch and Jackson to determine the mass, shape, and impact of the missile and to assess the extent of the ice’s reflection.
“We realized that a piece of ice would be much more reflective than people had thought, which means it could be smaller,” Dish said. “The same missile effect would give ‘Oumuamua a greater boost, greater than the comets that would normally pass through it.’
In our solar system, most of Pluto and Saturn’s moon Titan are covered by nitrogen ice. If the object is largely composed of nitrogen ice, a solid portion of it could have been ejected from a Pluto-like planet after colliding with another planetary system.
The same happened in our solar system, including Pluto and objects in the Kuiper Ice Belt. This distant belt of objects at the edge of our solar system had a greater mass than it is now.
When Neptune migrated to the outer solar system billions of years ago, it disrupted the orbits of these bodies that were a remnant of the solar system’s formation. Thousands of Pluto-like bodies, covered in nitrogen ice, collided with each other.
If it could happen in our solar system, then it is very likely that the same event would occur in another solar system, which means that “Oumuamua may be the first sample of an exoplanet born around another star, brought to Earth,” the authors write in studying.
Jackson, who is also a research scientist and exploration fellow at Arizona State University, said in a statement: “It is likely that it came off the surface through a collision about half a billion years ago and expelled from its original system.”
“Being made of frozen nitrogen also explains the unusual shape of ‘Oumuamua. As the outer layers of nitrogen ice evaporated, the shape of the body was gradually becoming flattened, just as a bar of soap would do when the outer layers were rubbed through use.'”
Researchers estimate that ‘Oumuamua’s encounter with our Sun caused it to lose 95% of its mass.
Theories that “Oumuamua is an alien object or piece of alien technology” have been circulating since the body’s advent, and are the basis for the new book “Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Extraterrestrial” by Avi Loeb, a Harvard science professor.
The researchers said in this study that there is no evidence to prove that “Oumuamua is a strange technology,” although it is natural that the first object observed outside of our solar system would bring aliens to mind.
“But it is important in science not to jump to conclusions,” says Desh. “It took two or three years to figure out a natural explanation – a fraction of nitrogen ice – that matches everything we know about Oumuamua. It’s not long in the science, and it’s too early to say that we’ve exhausted all the natural explanations.”
However, the Oumuamua method was a unique way for scientists to study an object outside of our solar system. Understanding more about Oumuamua, which disappeared from public view in December 2017, could shed more light on the formation and formation of other planetary systems.
“Until now, we had no way of knowing if the other solar systems had planets similar to Pluto, but now we have seen a portion of one of them pass close to Earth,” said Desh.
Future telescopes, such as the Vera Rubin Observatory in Chile, will regularly scan the visible sky from the Southern Hemisphere, increasing our ability to detect more interstellar objects entering our solar system. The observatory will be operational from 2022.
“Hopefully, within a decade or so, we will be able to obtain statistics about what types of objects are passing through the solar system, and whether nitrogen ice masses are as rare or common as we calculated,” Jackson said. “Either way, we should be able to learn a lot about other solar systems, and whether they have undergone the same types of collision histories that occurred in our history.”