CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (AP) – The first known visitor of our interstellar solar system is neither a comet nor an asteroid as it was initially suspected nor does it look like a cigar. A new study says the mysterious object is likely a remnant of a Pluto-like world that looks like a cookie.
Astronomers at Arizona State University this week reported that the 148-foot-long (45 meters) UFO appears to be made of frozen nitrogen, just like the surface of Pluto and Neptune’s largest moon Triton.
Study authors Alan Jackson and Stephen Desch believe that a collision caused a piece of ice coated in nitrogen to fall 500 million years ago and sent that piece of its star system toward our star system. The reddish remains are thought to be part of their original self, their outer layers evaporated by cosmic radiation, and more recently, the sun.
It was named Oumuamua, from Hawaii, after the Scouts, in honor of the observatory in Hawaii that discovered it in 2017.
Visible only as a precise point of light millions of miles away at its closest approach, it has been determined to have originated outside of our solar system because its speed and path suggests that it was not orbiting the sun or anything else.
The only other object that has been confirmed to be deviating from another star system in our system is Comet 21 / Borisov, which was discovered in 2019.
But what is Oumuamua? It didn’t fit into the known categories – it looked like an asteroid but it blasted fast like a comet. Unlike a comet, it had no visible tail. Speculation flipped back and forth between the comet and the asteroid – and it was even suggested that it could be an odd artifact.
“Everyone is interested in aliens, and this first object outside the solar system was bound to make people think of aliens,” Dish said in a statement. “But it is important in science not to jump to conclusions.”
Using their luster, size, and shape – and pushed by the escape of materials that did not produce a visible tail – Jackson and Dish created computer models that helped them determine that Oumuamua was most likely a piece of nitrogen ice that gradually eroded, in the manner of a thin bar of soap with use.
Their paper was published Tuesday by the American Geophysical Union and was also presented at the Planetary and Moon Science Conference, which is usually held in Houston but is hypothetical this year.
Not all scholars buy the new interpretation. Avi Loeb of Harvard University disputes the results and sticks to his hypothesis that the body appears more artificial than natural – in other words, something from an alien civilization, perhaps a light sail. His recently published book, Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Extraterrestrial Life, addresses this topic.
Given that Oumuamua differs from comets and asteroids – and something we’ve never seen before – “we cannot afford” business as usual, “as many scientists argue, Loeb wrote in an email on Wednesday.” If we think about “something we’ve never seen before.” , We must leave the hypothesis of artificial origin on the table and collect more evidence of creatures of the same class.
When Oumuamua was at its closest point to Earth, it seemed to be six times wider than it was. These are the approximate proportions for a single chip of an Oreo cookie, Dish noted.
It has now gone so far, far from Uranus’ orbit, more than 2 billion miles (3.2 billion km) – and too small to be seen, even with the Hubble Space Telescope. As a result, Jackson said, astronomers will need to rely on the original observations, and hopefully they will continue to improve their analyzes.
By the time the body begins leaving our solar system around 2040, the aspect ratio will have decreased to 10 to 1, according to Desch.
“Oumuamua might have been cookie-compatible when we saw it, but soon it will be flat like a pie,” Dish said in an email.
This is how the cosmic cookie collapses – that’s anyway -.
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