Just when you thought Oumuamua couldn't surprise us anymore, astronomers have announced that the unusual, cigar-shaped object that represents the first visitor from outside our solar system isn't cruising through space like a bullet-it's actually tumbling at high speed, and will continue to do so for the next few billion years.
A new study in the journal Nature Astronomy describes the interstellar rock, known as 'Oumuamua and the first scientists have ever discovered that has an origin outside the solar system, as being "in an excited rotational state undergoing non-principal axis rotation, or tumbling".
Although originally classified as a comet, additional observations revealed no signs of cometary activity after it passed closest to the Sun in September 2017. The research had speculated the possibility about conspiracy theory behind asteroid Oumuamua transmitting radio signals to be true, but these conspiracy theories turned out to be false.
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Since October Dr Wes Fraser, Dr Pedro Lacerda, Dr Michele Bannister and Professor Alan Fitzsimmons, all from Queen's University's School of Mathematics and Physics, have been analysing the brightness measurements of the rock.
The asteroid is likely going to continue its tumbling movement for at least a billion more years, unless it doesn't crash somewhere or collide with another object, astronomers suggest.
While it is hard to pinpoint the exact reason for this, it is thought that 'Oumuamua impacted with another asteroid before it was fiercely thrown out of its system.
Fraser further informed that their modeling of Oumuamua suggested that the chaotic tumbling will last for many billions of years to hundreds of billions of years before internal stresses cause it to rotate normally again.
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The answer is that its surface is spotty, and when the long asteroid was pointed towards Earth-based telescopes, it was largely red while the rest of the body was grey.
"Most of the surface reflects neutrally, but one of its long faces has a large red region", Fraser said. "This argues for broad compositional variations, which is unusual for such a small body", said Dr Fraser.
"We now know that beyond its unusual elongated shape, this space cucumber had origins around another star, has had a violent past, and tumbles chaotically because of it", Fraser said. Our results are really helping to paint a complete picture of this odd interstellar interloper. We'd always assumed the first interstellar object would be a comet ejected from the Oort cloud at the very edge of another solar system.
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