The first interstellar object that passed through our solar system called ‘Oumuamua’ might have been a part of another planet similar to Pluto, claims a new study. Published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets on March 16, the study conducted by the scientists from the American Geophysical Union try to unravel the mystery surrounding the interstellar object.
‘Oumuamua, which is a Hawaiian word meaning messenger, was first discovered in 2017 via the Pan-STARRS astronomical observatory in Hawaii, 1I/2017 U1 as it hurtled past the sun at 87.3 kilometers per second (196,000 miles per hour). What caught scientists’ eye was how the object was shaped weirdly flat and was initially thought to be a comet, but with features that were just odd enough to defy any classification.
In a press release by the AGU, Steven Desch, an astrophysicist at Arizona State University and an author of the new study says that the recent research is exciting since they have most likely resolved the mystery of what ‘Oumuamua is and he says that the research can reasonably identify it as a chunk of an ‘exo-Pluto,’ which means it comes from a Pluto-like planet in another solar system.
Alan Jackson, an astronomer and planetary scientist at Arizona State University and co-author of the new study says that the object was likely knocked off the surface by an impact about half a billion years ago and thrown out of its parent system.
Talking about its peculiar shape, Jackson says that it is most likely that ‘Oumuamua was not flat when it entered our solar system, but melted away to a sliver, as it lost more than 95% of its mass, during its close encounter with the Sun.
He further said that the composition of the object is made of frozen nitrogen which again explains the unusual shape of ‘Oumuamua. With the outer layers of nitrogen ice evaporating, the shape of the object would have become progressively more flattened, said Jackson. He says it is quite similar to how a bar of soap reacts as its outer layers get rubbed off through use.