Oumuamua, the first interstellar object to enter our solar system, remains a mystery years after it was discovered. Scientists have proposed several theories to explain the strange object’s nature, but they have all been rejected. Astronomers’ expectations have been rekindled by the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope into space. I wonder if we’ll learn about the unusual object along with the origin of the universe.
Located at the center of this very deep combined image is the interstellar object ‘Oumuamua. While the telescopes tracked the moving comet, faint star trails smeared around it. Image credit: ESO/K. Meech et al.
University of Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS1 telescope found 1I/2017 U1 ‘Oumuamua, the first interstellar object to visit our solar system. It was discovered by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations (NEOO) Program, which finds and tracks asteroids and comets in Earth’s neighborhood.
Though a comet, it slammed past the Sun on Sept. 9, 2017 at a blistering speed of 196,000 miles per hour (87.3 kilometers per second). At first, it was classified as an asteroid, but new measurements showed it was accelerating slightly, suggesting it’s a comet.
It is estimated that Umuamua is between 100 and 1,000 metres long (300 and 3,000 feet). As a matter of fact, its length and width are being estimated to range from 35 – 167 metres (115 – 548 feet).
There may be more to discover
The Vera Rubin Observatory, a giant telescope in Chile that will begin observing the sky later this decade, should be able to detect them.
Another theory suggests that a distant planet passing close to its star can be torn apart by tidal forces. As a result, fragments would be even more oblong, resembling a cigar rather than a cookie, casting doubt on the nitrogen ice theory. If and when the next interstellar visitor arrives, it might be possible to resolve this controversy with better images.