Back in October 2017, NASA discovered a peculiar asteroid in our solar system called ‘Oumuamua. Since its discovery, astronomers had no idea where this giant hunk of space rock came from, until a team of researchers at the University of Toronto Scarborough pieced it together.
‘Oumuamua likely hails from what is known as a binary star system — or a pair of two stars orbiting a common center. In a paper published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Dr. Alan Jackson explained that these types of star systems are known to launch object, like ‘Oumuamua, into space.
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While Jackson’s discovery has answered some questions regarding our very first interstellar visitor, ‘Oumuamua still holds many mysteries.
“It’s really odd that the first object we would see from outside our system would be an asteroid, because a comet would be a lot easier to spot and the Solar System ejects many more comets than asteroids,” Jackson, who is the lead author of the study, says in a statement.
An estimated 85 percent of stars are said to be in binary systems, so it’s fairly likely that ‘Oumuamua was shot out of from one of these stellar couples.
Binary star systems are typically launch way more icy bodies, like comets, into space rather than asteroids.. For this reason, Jackson believes our cigar-shaped visitor came from a system with a relatively hot, high mass star, which are known to contain more rocky objects.
‘Oumuamua is probably extremely old. Jackson and his colleagues estimate that it was ejected from its binary system sometime during the formation of the solar system’s planets. That would make it older than Earth.
Looks like the solar system’s first visitor might actually be older than most of the objects this side of the Milky Way.