Research theorizes the cigar-shaped object is comprised of dust fragments from an interstellar comet
Ever since its discovery in October 2017, researchers have speculated what the interstellar object ‘Oumuamua is: an alien “light sail” from another civilization; it’s made of something almost unheard of in science; others suggest it is a comet or an asteroid.
A new study now suggests it might be something very common on Earth: a cosmic “dust bunny.”
The research, published in Astrophysical Journal Letters, theorizes the 900 foot-long cigar-shaped object is comprised of dust fragments from an interstellar comet, which had a chunk of rock broken off. From there, the dust and rock combined and would be “ejected” into interstellar space by solar radiation.
Artist’s illustration of ‘Oumuamua, the first known interstellar object spotted in our solar system. (M. Kornmesser/ESO)
“We propose that ‘Oumuamua’s properties could be explained as those of a fractal dust aggregate (a ‘dust bunny’) formed in the inner coma of a fragmenting exo-Oort cloud comet,” the researchers wrote in the study’s abstract.
They continued: “Such fragments could serve as accretion sites by accumulating dust particles, resulting in the formation of a fractal aggregate. The fractal aggregate eventually breaks off from the fragment due to hydrodynamic stress. With their low density and tenuously bound orbits, most of these cometary fractal aggregates are then ejected into interstellar space by radiation pressure.”
The idea of a “dust bunny” being created from the rock and dust of another comet is similar to another theory put forth earlier this year. In April, another group of researchers suggested ‘Oumuamua – which means “pathfinder” or “scout” in Hawaiian – could have been ripped from a larger object due to gravity from a nearby star.
No longer observable by telescopes as of January 2018, many have speculated about what ‘Ouamumua is, as it traveled through the Solar System at 57,000 mph.
A study published in November 2018 from the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics suggested it could be “a lightsail of artificial origin” sent from another civilization.
The researcher who discovered ‘Oumuamua, Canadian physicist and astronomer Robert Weryk, said the idea it was from another civilization was just “wild speculation.”
The mystery about its exact nature deepened in late 2018, when NASA said it had been looking in ‘Ouamumua’s direction for two months but did not originally see it.
A second interstellar object, Comet 2I/Borisov, was discovered in August 2019.