Interstellar object ‘Oumuamua may be a 35-million-year-old hydrogen iceberg from space’

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Scientists now think that ‘Oumuamua – the first known interstellar object to pass through our solar system – could be a 35-million-year-old hydrogen iceberg from deep space

  • Yale University researchers believe ‘Oumuamua is a 35-million-year-old hydrogen iceberg from space’
  • ‘Oumuamua may have come from a giant molecular cloud (GMC), a type of interstellar cloud that allows the formation of molecules, usually hydrogen
  • They offered two possible GMCs for its origin: the Carina moving group and the Columba association
  • Both GMCs are located in deep space, about 100 and 160 million light-years away respectively respectievelijk
  • Hydrogen (H2) ice could be responsible for its strange cigar-like shape and the fact that ‘Oumuamua appeared to be accelerating in space

Another day, another theory of what the interstellar object ‘Oumuamua is.

In a new study, Yale University researchers believe the first known interstellar visitor, which flew past Earth four years ago, is not an alien spacecraft or space rock, but rather a 35-million-year-old hydrogen iceberg from deep space.

The findings, published in the pre-print magazine Arxiv, suggest the object came from a giant molecular cloud (GMC), a type of interstellar cloud that allows for the formation of molecules, usually hydrogen.

In contrast, most other interstellar formations are ionized gas.

Although hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, H2 ice is rarely seen in nature because it requires exceptionally cold temperatures to form, such as those found in GMCs.

“If a true physical association exists, we would expect that ‘Oumuamua’s trajectory crosses the trajectory of the source association at the time of the formation of the latter,” the scientists wrote in the study.

“In addition, this limitation must be met whether ‘Oumuamua was a comet-like object ejected from a protoplanetary disk, or a product of the original GMC itself.”

Yale University researchers believe 'Oumuamua is a 35-million-year-old hydrogen iceberg from space'

Yale University researchers believe ‘Oumuamua is a 35-million-year-old hydrogen iceberg from space’

The experts identified two possible GMCs where ‘Oumuamua—meaning ‘scout’ or ‘scout’ in Hawaiian—could have originated: the Carina-Near Relocation Group and the Columba Association.

Of the two, they believe that “Oumuamua’s orbit with orbits of nearby moving groups confirms” that his movement is completely consistent with membership of the Carina moving group.”

Both GMCs are located in deep space, approximately 100 and 160 million light-years from Earth, respectively.

A light-year, which measures distance in space, is about 6 trillion miles.

The researchers identified two possible giant molecular clouds (GMC) where 'Oumuamua might have originated: the Carina movement group (pictured) and the Columba association.  Of the two, they believe that 'Oumuamua's orbit with orbits of nearby moving groups confirms' that his movement is completely consistent with membership of the Carina movement group'

The researchers identified two possible giant molecular clouds (GMC) where ‘Oumuamua might have originated: the Carina movement group (pictured) and the Columba association. Of the two, they believe that ‘Oumuamua’s orbit with orbits of nearby moving groups confirms’ that his movement is completely consistent with membership of the Carina movement group’

GMCs are a type of interstellar cloud that allows for the formation of molecules, usually hydrogen.  The origin of the Columba association (pictured) is less likely than that of the Carina relocation group

GMCs are a type of interstellar cloud that allows the formation of molecules, usually hydrogen. The origin of the Columba association (pictured) is less likely than that of the Carina relocation group

In terms of composition, hydrogen (H2) ice, which is rare in nature, is a likely explanation.

This could explain the strange cigar-like shape and the fact that ‘Oumuamua appeared to be accelerating in space, the researchers note.

Because of the low amount of heat needed to change it from a solid to a gas, “exposed H2 ice only needs to cover a few percent of Oumuamua’s surface to produce the observed acceleration,” researchers wrote in the study.

“So the transient nature of H2 ice is naturally responsible for ‘Oumuamua’s extraordinarily young kinematics, as well as its odd shape,’ she added.

The two GMCs, which have no clear boundaries and can be seen in the night sky, may produce more interstellar objects over time, the researchers added.

The new study comes nearly a year to the day that a separate study from Yale University also suggested that ‘Oumuamua is made up of hydrogen ice.

Others have suggested that the 900-foot object was an alien space probe because of its cigar-like shape, but those were under intense scrutiny.

Our first interstellar visitor sailed past Earth at 97,200 mph in 2017, but what exactly was Oumuamua?

A cigar-shaped object called ‘Oumuamua sailed past Earth at 156,428 km/h in October.

It was first spotted by a telescope in Hawaii on October 19 and was observed 34 different times the following week.

Named for the Hawaiian term for “scout” or “messenger,” it passed over Earth at about 85 times the distance from the moon.

It was the first interstellar object seen in the solar system and it amazed astronomers.

It was initially thought that the object could be a comet.

However, it does not exhibit any of the classic behaviors expected from comets, such as a dusty tail of water ice particles.

The asteroid is up to 400 meters long and very elongated – perhaps 10 times as long as it is wide.

That aspect ratio is greater than that of any asteroid or asteroid seen to date in our solar system.

But the asteroid’s slightly red hue—particularly pale pink—and varying brightness are remarkably similar to objects in our own solar system.

About the size of the pickle skyscraper in London, some astronomers believed it was piloted by aliens because of the enormous distance the object traveled without being destroyed — and the proximity of its journey around Earth.

Alien hunters at SETI — the Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence based at Berkeley University, California — said there was a possibility the rock was “an alien artifact.”

But scientists at Queen’s University Belfast took a close look at the object and said it appears to be an asteroid, or “planetesimal” as originally thought.

Researchers believe the cigar-shaped asteroid had a “violent past,” after looking at the light bouncing off its surface.

They don’t know exactly when the violent collision happened, but they think the tumbling asteroid will continue for at least a billion years.

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