A new study says that a mysterious cookie-shaped object that entered our solar system likely fell off a distant planet.
Astronomers at Arizona State University reported earlier this month that the strange 45-meter object appears to be made of frozen nitrogen.
Study authors Alan Jackson and Steven Desch believe that a powerful force knocked down a chunk of a nitrogen-covered icy planet 500 million years ago. The piece was ejected from its own star system to ours. The reddish object is believed to be very different from its original me, with the external parts very affected by radiation and the sun.
The object is called Oumuamua, a Hawaiian word that means “messenger from afar.”“ It is named after the observatory in Hawaii that discovered it in 2017.
Oumuamua was first seen as a small light millions of miles away. It was found to be coming from beyond our solar system because its speed and trajectory suggested that it was not orbiting the sun or anything else.
The only other confirmed object to come from another star system in ours is Comet 2I / Borisov, discovered in 2019.
Oumuamua looked like a asteroid but it sped up like a Kite. However, unlike a comet, it did not have a visible tail. Scientists could not agree on whether it was an asteroid or a comet. Some even suggested that it could have been related to extraterrestrial life.
“Everyone is interested in aliens, and it was inevitable that this first object outside the solar system would make people think of aliens, “Desch said in a statement. “But in science it is important not jump to conclusions. “
Jackson and Desch created computer models that helped them discover that Oumuamua was most likely a piece of nitrogen ice. They also found that the object was slowly wearing out over time.
His two articles were published by the American Geophysical Union. They were also featured at the Lunar and Planetary Sciences Conference, which was held online earlier this year.
When Oumuamua was closer to Earth, it appeared to be six times its width. That’s about the same as half an Oreo cookie, Desch noted.
Oumuamua is now more than 3.2 billion kilometers away and too small to be seen, even by the Hubble Space Telescope. As a result, Jackson said, astronomers will need to rely on the original observations to continue studying it.
Desch noted that the object will continue to thin as it moves through space. He said in an email that by the time Oumuamua starts to exit our solar system around 2040, it will be “as flat as a pancake. “
I am Jonathan Evans.
Marcia Dunn reported on this story for the Associated Press. Jonathan Evans adapted this story for Learning English. Bryan Lynn was the editor.
Words in this story
original – adj.. existing from the beginning
asteroid – North. a space rock, either small or the size of a large moon, orbiting the sun
Kite – North. an outer space object made of material such as gas and ice that remains in its orbit as it approaches the sun
inevitable – adj.. something that cannot be avoided or prevented
jump to conclusions – v. guess the facts about a situation without having much information
pancake – North. a thin, flat food similar to bread that is cooked in a skillet