Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Hubble sees `Oumuamua getting a boost

28.06.2018

New results indicate interstellar nomad is a comet

`Oumuamua, the first interstellar object discovered in the Solar System, is moving away from the Sun faster than expected. This anomalous behaviour was detected using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope in cooperation with ground-based telescopes. The new results suggest that `Oumuamua is most likely a comet and not an asteroid. The discovery appears in the journal Nature.


This artist's impression shows the first interstellar object discovered in the Solar System, `Oumuamua. Observations made with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and others show that the object is moving faster than predicted while leaving the Solar System.

Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA, ESO, M. Kornmesser

`Oumuamua -- the first interstellar object discovered within our Solar System -- has been the subject of intense scrutiny since its discovery in October 2017 [1]. Now, by combining data from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope , ESO's Very Large Telescope and the Gemini South Telescope, an international team of astronomers has found that the object is moving faster than predicted. The measured gain in speed is tiny and `Oumuamua is still slowing down because of the pull of the Sun -- just not as fast as predicted by celestial mechanics.

The team, led by Marco Micheli (European Space Agency) explored several scenarios to explain the faster-than-predicted speed of this peculiar interstellar visitor. The most likely explanation is that `Oumuamua is venting material from its surface due to solar heating -- a behaviour known as outgassing [2]. The thrust from this ejected material is thought to provide the small but steady push that is sending `Oumuamua hurtling out of the Solar System faster than expected -- as of 1 June, it is travelling with about 114 000 kilometres per hour.

Such outgassing is a typical behaviour for comets and contradicts the previous classification of `Oumuamua as an interstellar asteroid. "We think this is a tiny, weird comet," comments Marco Micheli. "We can see in the data that its boost is getting smaller the farther away it travels from the Sun, which is typical for comets."

Usually, when comets are warmed by the Sun they eject dust and gas, which form a cloud of material -- called a coma -- around them, as well as the characteristic tail . However, the research team could not detect any visual evidence of outgassing.

"We did not see any dust, coma, or tail, which is unusual," explains co-author Karen Meech (University of Hawaii, USA) who led the discovery team's characterisation of `Oumuamua in 2017. "We think that 'Oumuamua may vent unusually large, coarse dust grains."

The team speculated that perhaps the small dust grains adorning the surface of most comets eroded during `Oumuamua's journey through interstellar space, with only larger dust grains remaining. A cloud of these larger particles would not be bright enough to be detected by Hubble.

Not only is `Oumuamua's hypothesised outgassing an unsolved mystery, but also its interstellar origin. The team originally performed the new observations on `Oumuamua to exactly determine its path which would have probably allowed it to trace the object back to its parent star system. The new results means it will be more challenging to obtain this information.

"The true nature of this enigmatic interstellar nomad may remain a mystery," concludes team member Olivier Hainaut (European Southern Observatory, Germany). "`Oumuamua's recently-detected gain in speed makes it more difficult to be able to trace the path it took from its extrasolar home star."

###

Notes

[1]`Oumuamua, pronounced "oh-MOO-ah-MOO-ah", was first discovered using the Pan-STARRS telescope at the Haleakala Observatory, Hawaii. Its name means "a messenger from afar, arriving first" in Hawaiian, and reflects its nature as the first known object of interstellar origin to have entered the Solar System.

[2] The team tested several hypotheses to explain the unexpected change in speed. They analysed whether solar radiation pressure , the Yarkovsky effect, or friction-like effects could explain the observations. It was also checked whether the gain in speed could have been caused by an impulse event (such as a collision), by `Oumuamua being a binary object or by `Oumuamua being a magnetised object. Also, the unlikely theory that `Oumuamua is an interstellar spaceship was rejected: the smooth and continuous change in speed is not typical for thrusters and the object is tumbling on all three axes, speaking against it being an artificial object.

More information

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.

The research team's work is presented in the scientific paper "Non-gravitational acceleration in the trajectory of 1I/2017 U1 (`Oumuamua)", which will be published in the journal Nature on 27 June 2018.

The international team of astronomers in this study consists of Marco Micheli (European Space Agency & INAF, Italy), Davide Farnocchia (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, USA), Karen J. Meech (University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, USA), Marc W. Buie (Southwest Research Institute, USA), Olivier R. Hainaut (European Southern Observatory, Germany), Dina Prialnik (Tel Aviv University School of Geosciences, Israel), Harold A. Weaver (Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, USA), Paul W. Chodas (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, USA), Jan T. Kleyna (University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, USA), Robert Weryk (University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, USA), Richard J. Wainscoat (University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, USA), Harald Ebeling (University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, USA), Jacqueline V. Keane (University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, USA), Kenneth C. Chambers (University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, USA), Detlef Koschny (European Space Agency, European Space Research and Technology Centre, & Technical University of Munich, Germany), and Anastassios E. Petropoulos (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, USA).

Image credit: NASA, ESA, M. Kornmesser, L. Calcada

Links

Contacts

Marco Micheli
Space Situational Awareness Near-Earth Object Coordination Centre
European Space Agency, Frascati, Italy
Tel: +39 06 941 80365
Email: marco.micheli@esa.int

Karen Meech
Institute for Astronomy
University of Hawaii, Honolulu, USA
Tel: +1 720 231 7048
Email: meech@IfA.Hawaii.Edu

Olivier Hainaut
European Southern Observatory
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6752
Email: ohainaut@eso.org

Mathias Jäger
ESA/Hubble, Public Information Officer
Garching bei München
Tel: +49 176 62397500
Email: mjaeger@partner.eso.org

Mathias Jäger, ESA/Hubble, Public Information Officer | EurekAlert!
Further information:
https://www.spacetelescope.org/news/heic1813/

Further reports about: Comets ESA European Southern Observatory Hawaii Hubble NASA Telescope astronomy interstellar

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht First diode for magnetic fields
21.11.2018 | Universität Innsbruck

nachricht When AI and optoelectronics meet: Researchers take control of light properties
20.11.2018 | Institut national de la recherche scientifique - INRS

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Nonstop Tranport of Cargo in Nanomachines

Max Planck researchers revel the nano-structure of molecular trains and the reason for smooth transport in cellular antennas.

Moving around, sensing the extracellular environment, and signaling to other cells are important for a cell to function properly. Responsible for those tasks...

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Optical Coherence Tomography: German-Japanese Research Alliance hosted Medical Imaging Conference

19.11.2018 | Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Sustainable energy supply in developing and emerging countries: What are the needs?

21.11.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Nonstop Tranport of Cargo in Nanomachines

20.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Researchers find social cultures in chimpanzees

20.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>