Oumuamua had a turbulent past. The asteroid has come too close to its star

Recent research indicates that ' Oumuamua , an interstellar asteroid, the first object discovered outside the Solar System to traverse our planetary system can have a very turbulent past.

The mysterious object, which was spotted in October 2017 when it was already escaping from the solar system, is most likely a fragment of a larger object that was gravitatively torn apart when it came too close to its parent star.

This scenario explains the existence of 'Oumuamua, but can also explain the vast population of asteroid-like interstellar objects,' says Yun Zhang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Astronomical Observatory.

As if that wasn't enough, the Chinese researchers 'hypothesis also explains the peculiar shape of the asteroid:' Oumuamua is a very elongated object, reminiscent of a long, cosmic cigar (slightly flattened). Astronomers have never observed an object of this shape before.

Escaping from the solar system, after passing near the sun, 'Oumuamua, instead of slowing down, was still accelerating.

Such a change in speed cannot be attributed to the interaction of the Sun, Jupiter or other large objects. However, this type of acceleration can sometimes be explained by degassing - especially in the case of comets - which, if directed in the right direction, can act like a jet engine.

The problem is that there were no signs of outgassing on the Oumuamua surface - astronomers saw no tail or coma - even though most astronomers originally suspected it was just a comet.

The very discovery of 'Oumuamuy tells us a lot. Considering how vast and empty the space between the stars is, it can be said that the discovery of even one such object in our planetary system indicates a powerful and numerous population of similar objects in space.

Each planetary system should throw a total of about 100 trillion objects like 'Oumuamua,' says Zhang.

Using computer simulations to do this, Zhang investigated the effects of near-flying planetary objects near their parent stars. Simulations have shown that some of the objects may tear into smaller, elongated fragments that are then discarded into interstellar space.

Extremely high temperatures when approaching the star and subsequent cooling can cause a crust to form on the surface of these fragments that allows them to maintain a peculiar, elongated shape.

The heat dissipation during the star's tearing process releases enormous amounts of volatile compounds, which in turn can explain the reddish colors of the Oumuamuy surface and the lack of visible coma during its passage through our planetary system, "adds Zhang.

Nevertheless, some of the volatile compounds sublimating at high temperatures may still hide below the surface. Such hidden volatiles can be activated when approaching other stars (e.g. the Sun) causing degassing and associated non-gravitational acceleration.

'Oumuamua may be a fragment of a long-term comet, proto-planet or even a super-Earth, an object that has come too close to its star. It is worth emphasizing here that such stars do not have to be active at all, they can also be white dwarfs or super-dense remains of stars such as the Sun.

'Oumuamua was the first but not the last

The discovery of 'Oumuamuy in 2017 was a surprise to everyone. In August 2019, astronomers spotted a second object of this type, comet 2I / Borisov , which is also from outside the solar system. Researchers expect more to be discovered in the coming years.



'Oumuamua had a turbulent past. The asteroid has come too close to its star

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