The fleeting interstellar visitor we call ‘Oumuamua is back in the news, an object whose fascination burns bright given its status as a visitor from another star system. Just what kind of system is the subject of a new letter just published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, in which Alan Jackson and colleagues argue that the star-crossed wanderer is most likely the offspring of a binary stellar system, these being far more likely to eject rocky objects. Our first confirmed interstellar asteroid just grows in interest.
Jackson (University of Toronto – Scarborough) is quoted in this news release from the Royal Astronomical Society as saying that the odds didn’t favor the first interstellar object detected in our system being an asteroid. Comets are more likely to be spotted, and our system is more efficient at ejecting comets than asteroids. But ‘Oumuamua is what we got, and its eccentricity of 1.2 and 30 km/sec speed pegged its orbit as hyperbolic, clearly not bound by the Sun’s gravity.
Image: Artist’s impression of ‘Oumuamua. Credit: ESO / M. Kornmesser.
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