SCIENTISTS are unravelling the mystery behind the origins of an interstellar visitor that buzzed past Earth four years ago.
According to new research, the cigar-shaped object Oumuamua is likely a hydrogen iceberg that emerged from a cloud of deep space gas.
The origins of the cigar-shaped object Oumuamua remain a mystery four years after it shot through the Solar SystemCredit: Getty – Contributor
Based on calculations of the interloper’s orbit, they estimate that it is roughly 35million years old.
Oumuamua took the world by storm in October 2017 when it was identified as the first known visitor from another star system.
A pair of Harvard scientists suggested the long and thin object was a spacecraft, sparking a frantic flurry of scans by astronomers as it flew by.
Experts found no signs of alien signals, and eventually concluded that the space guest was a comet or asteroid.
Oumuamua is believed to be the first interstellar interloper detected in our star systemCredit: PA:Press Association
Astronomers have spent the years since trying to figure out where exactly the deep space traveller came from.
In the new study, researchers at Yale University suggest the object may have come from a clump of gas and dust hundreds of light-years from Earth.
The cold, dark region is what’s known as a molecular cloud – a spot in interstellar space that gives rise to stars.
They have no clear outer boundaries, and are so large that they can be seen in the night sky against the brighter background of the Milky Way.
According to the research, which used computer models to track the historical orbit of Oumuamua, the object has two possible points of origin.
They’re clusters of stars called the Carina Moving Group and the Columbia association, about 100 and 160million light-years away respectively.
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Based on the team’s calculations, the two clusters should have produced plenty more interstellar objects over time.
That means we can expect to detect far more of them in the coming decades.
Oumuamua baffled scientists because it seemed to behave like something between a comet and an asteroid.
The interstellar visitor was long and thin – an unusual shape – and travelled at 200,000mph while rotating in a “tumbling” motion.
Perhaps strangest of all was that the object appeared to accelerate on its journey, suggesting it was powered by something.
Some scientists think that rising speed was the work of an alien engine, while others believe it was simply caused by the natural ejection of gas.
The new study lines up with research published last year that suggested Oumuamua was a hydrogen iceberg ejected by a molecular cloud.
The findings were published in the pre-print journal Arxiv.
In other news, Nasa last week released a stunning new picture of our galaxy’s violent, super-energised heart.
The space agency has announced that it is accepting applications for wannabe space explorers who wish to fire their names to the Red Planet.
And, the Perseverance Mars rover recently captured mind-boggling video and audio recordings from the surface of the Red Planet.
Where do you think Oumuamua came from? Let us know in the comments!
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