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Interstellar Visitor ʻOumuamua Was Shaped By Cosmic Particles

25 Jan 2018, 15:01 UTC
Interstellar Visitor ʻOumuamua Was Shaped By Cosmic Particles ESO/M. Kornmesser

Last year, the interstellar interloper ʻOumuamua passed through the inner Solar System. Originally thought to be a comet, then later an asteroid, this visitor turned out to have properties unlike any object ever seen before. It moved far too quickly and from too inclined an angle to originate from within our Solar System; neither Jupiter nor Neptune nor an Oort cloud object could have flung it inwards with those properties. When we examined it in detail, it appeared to have a carbon-based coating over an icy interior, yet sprouted no tail, despite reaching temperatures of 550 °F (290 °C). Oddest of all, it was cigar-shaped, approximately eight times as long as it was wide. While many origin theories have been proposed, an incredibly simple possibility may provide all the answers: simply traveling through the Milky Way for billions of years may have transformed it into the object we see today.

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