Mysterious object confirmed to be from another solar system
Astronomers have named interstellar object ’Oumuamua and its red colour suggests it carries organic molecules that are building blocks of life
Astronomers are now certain that the mysterious object detected hurtling past our sun last month is indeed from another solar system. They have named it 1I/2017 U1(’Oumuamua) and believe it could be one of 10,000 others lurking undetected in our cosmic neighbourhood. The certainty of its interstellar origin comes from an analysis that shows its orbit is almost impossible to achieve from within our solar system. Its name comes from a Hawaiian term for messenger or scout. Indeed, it is the first space rock to have been identified as forming around another star. Since asteroids coalesce during the process of planet formation, this object can tell us something about the formation of planets around its unknown parent star. The latest analyses with ground-based telescopes show that ’Oumuamua is quite similar to some comets and asteroids in our own solar system. This is important because it suggests that planetary compositions like ours could be typical across the galaxy. It is thought to be an extremely dark object, absorbing 96% of the light that falls on its surface, and it is red. This colour is the hallmark of organic (carbon-based) molecules. Organic molecules are the building blocks of the biological molecules that allow life to function. It is widely thought that the delivery of organic molecules to the early Earth by the collision of comets and asteroids made life here possible. ’Oumuamua shows that the same could be possible in other solar systems.