Oumuamua, the first known interstellar object to pass through our solar system, could be a piece of an icy exoplanet from another solar system, a new study has found.
Since the object was spotted in 2017 its origins have mystified scientists. Various theories as to its origins have been put forward, including an alien spaceship or a comet.
But now, a study published as a pair of papers in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, asserts that the object is likely to be a piece of an icy Pluto-like planet located outside of our solar system.
The study, by Alan Jackson and Steven Desch, from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, beings by stating that the origins of Oumuamua have so far “defied explanation”.
It goes on to say: ”Oumuamua is very strange and it is hard to explain where it came from.”
The pair examined different ices and the push they would give the object as they evaporate. They found that Nitrogen is the most likely explanation as to why the Oumuamua accelerated away from the sun – the vaporized ice created a ‘rocket effect’ seen in other objects, such as comets.
According to an interview in AGU (Advancing Earth and Space Science), the mystery has been resolved.
Mr Desch told the publication: “It was likely knocked off the surface about half a billion years ago and thrown out of its parent system.
“Its characteristics suggest it is likely made of solid nitrogen, like the surface of Pluto.”
Image: William Hartmann