Space & Astronomy
Mystery of 'Oumuamua has finally been solved... or has it ?
By T.K. Randall
March 25, 2023 · 7 comments
An artist's impression of 'Oumuamua. Image Credit: CC BY 4.0 ESO / M. Kornmesser / Nagualdesign
Scientists believe that they have definitively proven that the interstellar visitor 'Oumuamua was not an alien spacecraft.
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 have even been suggestions that the object could be some sort of alien spacecraft.
Now, though, two scientists have put forward a new explanation for the enigmatic space rock that would seem to put to bed, once and for all, any notion that it is an artificial structure.
In particular, the pair explain 'Oumuamua's peculiar burst of speed as it moved through our solar system by way of the presence of molecular hydrogen which turned into gas when it neared the Sun.
"Given the information that we have, I think that this is our best hope of explaining â€˜Oumuamua without having to resort to more sensational ideas, or, as we might say in the science community, â€˜fine-tuned' ideas," said study leader Jennifer Bergner of the University of Berkeley.
"We're excited about this idea because it seems very generic, and a natural explanation for a process that should be happening anyways."
Not everyone, however, is convinced - especially Avi Loeb, a Harvard astronomer who has long argued that 'Oumuamua could be an extraterrestrial spacecraft.
"This is unreasonable because it is impossible for all the hydrogen trapped deep in the object's interior to leave to the surface without releasing the oxygen atoms with them along the way," he told Motherboard
"Keep in mind that 'Oumuamua had the size of a football field (100-200 meters)."
"How can all the hydrogen from a depth of tens of meters reach the surface while leaving an object of pure oxygen behind? This is implausible."
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