Scientists know the home star of interstellar object Oumuamua

Gaia mapping the stars of the Milky Way

Gaia mapping the stars of the Milky Way

The team found four possible candidate stars for the interstellar comet's home, but they say the search is not over.

Accounting for that fact nudged 'Oumuamua's entry trajectory into our solar system a bit.

A team led by Coryn Bailer-Jones of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany has combined data gathered on 'Oumuamua with data from the European Space Agency's Gaia space observatory to trace the alien asteroid back to a few possible origins.

Artist's impression oft he interstellar object 'Oumuamua.

The cigar-shaped asteroid Oumuamua was first spotted in October 2017, and since then, scientists have been trying to determine the origin of the mysterious interstellar object. Unfortunately, the visitor was caught only as it was leaving, but astronomers were still able to use ground-based and space telescopes to measure the object's motion. In reality, 'Oumuamua may have travelled much farther and longer before reaching our solar system - perhaps tens of millions of years or more, the authors said. When the object was closer to the sun, it picked up speed. Its discovery was somewhat lucky, as when it was discovered, the elongated asteroid Oumuamua was already on its way out. Although weak - the outgassing was not visible on images like it is with comets close to the Sun - it is too large to be ignored when back-tracking the orbit.

Scientists have uncovered the truth about a mysterious space rock called Oumuamua which has been hurtling through Earth's solar system and was spotted a year ago.

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Gaia has recorded a massive amount of precise information about the positions and movement of millions of stars. GSS data contains nearly everything that one needs to know about a star, including positions, distance indicators and motions on the sky.

Next, the astronomers looked at an approximate track-back: a simplified scenario in which both 'Oumuamua and all the stars move along straight lines, at constant speeds. A more distant encounter (1.6pc) but with a lower encounter (ejection) velocity of 10.7km/s was with the G5 dwarf HD 292249, 3.8Myr ago. One of these star systems may have ejected 'Oumuamua toward Earth, likely via a giant planet early in the system's formation. None of these four stars, however, amounts to stellar prominence. It approached within about 1.96 light-years.

While future observations of these four stars might shed new light on their properties and potential to be the home system of 'Oumuamua, the astronomers are also looking forward to future releases of Gaia data. However, according to the researchers, the asteroid's comparatively high relative speed (around 25 km / s) makes it unlikely that this is its origin.

All of the candidates are dwarf stars, which means they are small and burn very hot.

While these four are plausible candidates, the smoking gun is still missing.

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