via El Intransigente

The human fascination for space is inexhaustible. Our desire to understand how this complicated network of systems, galaxies, stars, and planets works is renewed every time we are pushed against the limits of our knowledge or we find something so strange that it makes us rethink what that we already took for granted.

In 2017, thanks to the advanced technology of ground-based telescopes, an object was sighted circulating through our Solar System. Scientists called it Oumuamua, which means “messenger” in Hawaiian.

At first, they thought it was a comet, but a better observation raised serious doubts about its nature since certain of its characteristics did not coincide with what would be expected of a comet. It entered our solar system much slower than expected, with a very flattened shape and without a significant gas tail, three elements exactly the opposite of what would be expected from a comet.

These differences gave rise to countless speculations that even led some to think that it was an alien object or spacecraft. However, it also aroused the interest of many researchers who immediately dedicated themselves to giving a scientific explanation to this strange object. Now, 3 years later, two astrophysicists from Arizona State University have finally unveiled the mystery.


Scientists Unravel The Mystery Behind Oumuamua

Steven Desch and Alan Jackson of the School of Earth and Space Exploration were able to determine that this long object of about 0.5 miles had large amounts of solid nitrogen. That could explain the phenomena of light that it reflects and in part its acceleration when entering our Solar system.

“It was likely knocked off the surface by an impact about half a billion years ago and thrown out of its parent system. Being made of frozen nitrogen also explains the unusual shape of ‘Oumuamua. As the outer layers of nitrogen ice evaporated, the shape of the body would have become progressively more flattened, just like a bar of soap does as the outer layers get rubbed off through use,” said Alan Jackson on his research.

This type of nitrogen is also found in abundance on Pluto, so scientists after many months of study and evaluation have finally managed to conclude that Oumuamua is a fragment of a Pluto-like planet in another star system.

This incredible find marks the first time that scientists have the opportunity to evaluate an object that comes from another planetary system and helps them better understand the processes of formation of our own.

Oumuamua will stay close to us for a couple more decades so we hope that scientists can continue studying and discovering incredible things about this unexpected visitor.