Ever since the interstellar object called ‘Oumuamua traveled through our solar system back in October of 2017 (it was more like racing through at an incredible speed of 196,000 miles per hour), astronomers have been attempting to figure out exactly what it is.
There have been numerous theories as to what ‘Oumuamua is – a comet, asteroid, hydrogen iceberg, dust bunny, and even alien technology. Now, new research conducted by Steven Desch and Alan Jackson, who are two astrophysicists at Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration, have brought forth a new suggestion that it is a piece of a Pluto-like planet from another solar system.
But first, they had to debunk the previous theories, specifically whether or not it is a comet. “In many ways ‘Oumuamua resembled a comet, but it was peculiar enough in several ways that mystery surrounded its nature, and speculation ran rampant about what it was,” Desch stated. If it is a comet, it would have had a much higher velocity when it entered our solar system and it wouldn’t have received such a large boost or “rocket effect” when it approached the sun. Another red flag is its flat pancake-like shape while other comets are “cosmic snowballs”.
As for the ice theory, Desch explained, “We realized that a chunk of ice would be much more reflective than people were assuming, which meant it could be smaller. The same rocket effect would then give 'Oumuamua a bigger push, bigger than comets usually experience.” Furthermore, the researchers realized that solid nitrogen made more sense since the space body was shiny and was as reflective as other objects that were made of nitrogen ice.
Since Pluto and Saturn’s moon Titan have large amounts of nitrogen ice, the researchers claimed that 'Oumuamua may have once been part of a Pluto-like planet in another solar system and the broken piece somehow made its way here. They came to this theory by analyzing how objects in the Kuiper Belt began colliding with each other when Neptune messed up their orbits as it traveled to the outer part of our solar system.
Since that happened right here in our solar system, it’s very possible that it could occur elsewhere in space. Jackson went into further details, “It was likely knocked off the surface by an impact about half a billion years ago and thrown out of its parent system,” adding, “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.” Additionally, when ‘Oumuamua traveled past our sun, it may have lost up to 95% of its mass.
With that being said, I guess the theory of it being an alien spaceship is pretty much debunked... Or is it? Pictures of ‘Oumuamua can be seen here.