Interstellar Visitor 'Oumuamua Came From 1 of 4 Nearby Stars

Interstellar Visitor 'Oumuamua Came From 1 of 4 Nearby Stars

After initial analysis, scientists came to know that it was an interstellar visitor from deep space and the mysterious object was named "Oumuamua", which means "messenger from afar arriving first" in the Hawaiian language. Well, based on a new study led by astronomer Coryn Bailer-Jones of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, we now have some potential answers to the questions of where Oumuamua came from and what exactly it is: Oumuamua is most similar to a comet, and it most likely came from one of four star systems. Two more stars have encounter distances and velocities intermediate to these.

At the time of its discovery, astronomers said the object comes from the direction of the star Vega in the constellation Lyra, but that's like saying Mercedes manufactures cars somewhere on Earth.

The high speed makes it impossible to catch up to 'Oumuamua, so it's been hard to characterize it. Scientists first labeled it a comet, but the lack of a visible coma made everyone think it wasn't one. However, as it neared the sun, it gathered more sun, just what a comet would do - probably because it had some ice, which turned into water vapor, propelling it faster. In addition, the relative speed of 'Oumuamua and its home star is likely to be comparatively slow - objects are typically not ejected from their home systems at large speeds.

Bailer-Jones and his colleagues found four stars that are possible candidates for 'Oumuamua's home world. However, scientists haven't yet found planets around the four candidate stars. The ESA has been using data gleaned from the Gaia spacecraft to try and determine what star systems Oumuamua could have possibly originated from.

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The star that Oumuamua came closest to just over a million years ago is the reddish dwarf star HIP 3757. A million years ago, it would have been within two light years of 'Oumuamua's path. None of the four home candidates have published exoplanets or are known to be binaries. So far, no such planet has been detected around those stars - but since none of the stars have been examined closely for planets so far, that could well change in the future. However, the team did identify four stars which would have been very close to its path in the last several million years.

"Gaia is an ambitious mission that relies on a huge human collaboration to make sense of a large volume of highly complex data", ESA Science Director Günther Hasinger said earlier this year in a press release about the Gaia mission.

While all of the stars are plausible homes for 'Oumuamua, astronomers acknowledged they have yet to identify a smoking gun.

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