According to a new analysis, the interstellar object ‘Oumuamua is not a nitrogen iceberg, as the scientific community has long contended.
A giant rocky and cigar-shaped spaceship from interstellar space reached our solar system in October of 2017. Astronomers termed it ‘Oumuamua, which translates to “messenger,” because of its mystery and unknown origin.
The Pan-STARRS1 telescope initially discovered the mystery vessel at the University of Hawaii, financed by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations (NEOO).
The interstellar visitor has resurfaced as a hot subject after a new team of Harvard University scientists claimed that ‘Oumuamua was not a nitrogen iceberg as previously thought.
When scientists first saw ‘Oumuamua racing through our solar system at approximately 57,000 mph (92,000 km/h)—way too fast to have originated in our solar system.
The flat, wonky-shaped object accelerated at a rate that couldn’t be explained by the sun’s gravitational pull when it crossed the sun, tumbling end-over-end. And there was no observable sign of fuel, such as water vapor or gases exiting the object and propelling it forward.
Scientists are unaware of what drove ‘Oumuamua on its slingshot tour into and out of our solar system and its composition.
Alan Jackson and Steven Desch, astrophysicists at Arizona State University, proposed that ‘Oumuamua, a comet, was an iceberg made of nitrogen. Scientists were first perplexed by the comet’s speed (87.3 kilometers per second), and they couldn’t figure out how the sun’s gravitational force did not affect it when it left our solar system.
According to the duo, the comet’s propulsion was due to nitrogen all over it, which evaporated owing to the sun’s heat and drove it at an incredible pace. What’s remarkable is that it was able to sustain such a high speed despite its size, ranging from 400 to 800 meters long and 35 to 167 meters broad.
An article published in the journal New Astronomy by Harvard astrophysicists Amir Siraj and Avi Loeb challenges the idea above. The duo claims that the amount of nitrogen in the universe is insufficient to create an object like ‘Oumuamua.
Pure nitrogen is exceedingly rare and has only been discovered in Pluto, accounting for only 0.5 percent of the planet’s total mass. Furthermore, even if we were to collect all of the pure nitrogen from every Pluto-like world in the cosmos, it would still be insufficient to form such a massive object, reported Live Science.
‘The necessary mass of heavy elements exceeds the total quantity locked in stars with 95% confidence, making the scenario untenable because only a small fraction of the mass in stars ends in exo-Plutos,’ Amir Siraj and Avi Loeb wrote.
Despite this, Siraj maintains that the object’s mystery remains and that all possibilities must be investigated before drawing any conclusions.
But that’s what makes ‘Oumuamua so fascinating, he said.”I don’t really care what it is, because every single possibility is an astrophysical object we’ve never seen before, so that’s why it’s exciting.”