Space & Astronomy
'Oumuamua was 'ripped from an alien world'
By T.K. Randall
April 15, 2020 · 11 comments
Oumuamua may not be that unusual. Image Credit: ESO / M. Kornmesser
A new study has highlighted the potentially violent origins of this mysterious interstellar visitor.
The 400-meter-long object, which flew past our planet back in October 2017, became the focus of much debate and intrigue after it was found to have come from a distant solar system.
Even today, the exact nature and origins of 'Oumuamua (from the Hawaiian word for 'scout') continue to remain a major point of study, with scientists attempting to determine exactly what the object is made of, where it came from and how long it has been traveling through space.
There has also been speculation that the object could have been sent by an extraterrestrial intelligence, however attempts by SETI and others to corroborate this - including using radio telescopes to listen for any signals that might be coming from it - have so far come up empty.
Now a new study by an international team of scientists has all-but put to bed any possibility that this long-distance traveler is anything more than a naturally occurring object.
"We showed that 'Oumuamua-like interstellar objects can be produced through extensive tidal fragmentation during close encounters of their parent bodies with their host stars, and then ejected into interstellar space," said study author Douglas N. C. Lin from the University of California.
In other words, long shard-like objects are produced in large numbers and cast out into the interstellar void when a planet or other large body strays too close to its star and is violently torn apart.
This also suggests that objects like 'Oumuamua may actually be quite common.
"The discovery of 'Oumuamua implies that the population of rocky interstellar objects is much larger than we previously thought," said study co-author Yun Zhang.
"On average, each planetary system should eject in total about a hundred trillion objects like 'Oumuamua."
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