Published Date : Mar 21, 2018
Towards the end of the past year, scientists noticed a totally new visitor to our solar system, speeding its way through. A long, cylindrical object had flown into our tinny celestial neighborhood at a swift pace and orbited around the sun before heading back out into deep space. Eventually determined to be an asteroid, the object was given the name Oumuamua, meaning “scout,” which led to parts of the scientific community wonder if it could actually be an alien probe surveying our solar space for signs of life.
In a recent study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society journal, researchers led by Dr Alan Jackson, member of the Centre for Planetary Sciences at the University of Toronto Scarborough, proposes that Oumuamua is the by-product or consequence of a binary star system. Unlike our local system of stars, a binary star system consists of a pair of stars which orbit around a central point, constantly pulling on each other’s gravity as they rotate.
Using computerized models, University of Toronto-Scarborough astronomer Alan Jackson tested the conditions under which celestial bodies such as asteroids and comets might be hurled by their host stars into the vast space. Our own solar system is responsible for the discharge of the odd object into interstellar space, but the bulk of these objects are comets that form far from Earth, and are only very loosely bound by the Sun’s gravity.
There was plenty of early speculation as to what type of body Oumuamua actually is, especially in the hours and days immediately following its detection. It was declared to be an asteroid, then a comet, and then an asteroid once again, but scientists seem to now have settled on it being a rocky body. Because of that, and because binary star systems would produce lots and lots of asteroids of varying shapes, chances are it was born in the grip of two stars, or at least that’s the best guess is as yet.