‘Oumuamua possibly originated from ‘Pluto-like planet’ outside our solar system
The first interstellar object to pass through the solar system has at last revealed its identity. ‘Oumuamua, which means ‘scout’ or ‘messenger’ in Hawaiian, was actually found in 2017. The strange object was travelling at 196,000 miles per hour, and as it resembled a comet there were aspects to it that just did not add up.
As the unusually flat object passed like a comet, it seemed to possess a surface formed of solid nitrogen like the surface of Pluto. New research, published as a pair of papers in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, throws more light on this theory. Steven Desch, an astrophysicist at Arizona State University and an author of the new study thinks that this study is interesting in that they have possibly solved the mystery of what ‘Oumuamua is and they can logically recognize it as a piece of an ‘exo-Pluto,’ a Pluto-like planet in another solar system. Till now, they didn’t know any ways to conclude if other solar systems have Pluto-like planets. However, now they have observed a chunk of one pass by Earth.
The scientists think that ‘Oumuamua was knocked from the surface of a Pluto-like world half a billion years ago, expelled from its own solar system as it travelled towards our own. ‘Oumuamua possibly increased its flat appearance when its mass melted away as it flew nearer to our sun, according to Alan Jackson, a co-author of the study. Above 95 per cent of the comet’s body was decreased, he adds, making it more flattened than any other known solar system object.
Being formed of frozen nitrogen also describes the unique shape of ‘Oumuamua. As the outer layers of nitrogen ice evaporated, the shape of the body would have become steadily more flattened, just like a bar of soap does as the outer layers get rubbed off through use.
Many other factors also showed that ‘Oumuamua was not any conventional comet. It intruded into the solar system at a lesser velocity than expected, meaning that it had not been moving in space for a long period of time.
It also received a push from the Sun known as a ‘rocket effect’ that was greater than would usually be anticipated.
It was an exciting moment for Desch and his team. They understood that a chunk of ice would be much more thoughtful than people were expecting, which suggested that it could be smaller. The same rocket influence would then give ‘Oumuamua a bigger push, bigger than comets usually encounter. Ultimately, ‘Oumuamua also required a noticeable tail that is an essential characteristic of most comets, hinting that there was not gas disappearing from the cosmic rock.
Jackson and his colleagues knew that they had hit on the right concept when they finished the calculation for what albedo (how reflective the body is) would make the motion of ‘Oumuamua match the observations. That value came out as being equal as they observe on the surface of Pluto or Triton, bodies covered in nitrogen ice.
When ‘Oumuamua was first discovered, its inexplicable origins caused some to consider that it was a part of alien technology. Though many will feel frustrated that this is not our first official confrontation with extra-terrestrial life, the discovery lets scientists examine extrasolar systems in a new method.
It’s expected that in a decade or so we can obtain statistics on what kinds of objects pass through the solar system, and if nitrogen ice chunks are limited or as common as we’ve calculated. Both ways, we can learn a lot about other solar systems, and if they underwent the same sorts of collisional histories that ours did.