technology

Nasa cracks mystery of asteroid so strange it was mistaken for an alien spaceship


It was the strange cigar-shaped asteroid which looked a lot like a probe built by an extraterrestrial civilisation.

Now astronomers have solved one of the biggest mysteries about a space rock called ‘Oumuamua, which was the first observed object to have travelled into our solar system from deep space.

A team of scientists including a member of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have released the findings of a study aimed at discovering where this strange object came from.

The asteroid was twice as big as the Gherkin skyscraper, stretching to about 400 metres long, and zoomed through our solar system before speeding back into interstellar space.

Its discovery sparked claims that it could be an alien reconnaissance craft.

An artist’s impression of the huge cigar-shaped object assumed to be an interstellar asteroid  (Picture: ESO)

Unfortunately, ‘Oumuamua turned out to be natural in origin, having been formed in some distant star system before making a lonely journey through the void.

In a paper that’s been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal, scientists trace the origins of ‘Oumuamua to four possible star systems.

They did this by calculating its trajectory and then working out which systems came close to it as it travelled.

The study suggests ‘Oumuamua left its distant home millions of years ago, although one key mystery remains.

It’s believed the asteroid may have been ejected from its ‘home’ during the formation of giant planets.

However, the researchers say ‘none of our home star candidates is known to harbour’ these behemoths.

Astronomers from the University of Hawaii were the first to spot Oumuamua, so they named it after the Hawaiian term for ‘scout’ or ‘messenger’.

It was discovered on October 19 using the Pan-STARRS telescope which is situated near the summit of a volcano on the island of Maui.

The apostrophe in its name is actually a Hawaiian letter called ‘okina. This is pronounced as a glottal stop, which is most familiar to British people as the sound made when cockneys drop the letter ‘t’ in words like butter.

An organisation called Breakthrough Listen said it was the right shape to be an alien craft and wrote: ‘Researchers working on long-distance space transportation have previously suggested that a cigar or needle shape is the most likely architecture for an interstellar spacecraft since this would minimize friction and damage from interstellar gas and dust.’

‘Oumuamua is also ‘tumbling’ through space, which is the sort of motion scientists would expect from a spaceship with broken engines.

Breakthrough Listen later scanned the asteroid for radio transmissions but found ‘no evidence of artificial signals emanating from the object’, meaning it’s unlikely to be alien in origin.





READ SOURCE

Leave a Reply