Our first interstellar visitor likely came from 2-star system

This is an artist’s impression of ‘Oumuamua. Credit ESO  M. Kornmesser

In contrast, icy comets, rather than asteroids, were more commonly ejected from lone star systems. The study has garnered worldwide headlines.

With a radius of 200 meters [656 feet] and traveling at a blistering speed of 30 km (20 miles) per second, at its closest it was about 33 million km [21 million miles] from Earth.

Astronomers first classified 'Oumuamua (Hawaiian for "scout") as a comet, but later observations didn't reveal the telltale signs, including clouds of dust or water vapor.

Determined to find, once and for all, the origins of this space object, another group of astronomers has recently conducted a study trying to discover Oumuamua's origins and how its "home" system was able to expel it.

The team suggests that the asteroid was very likely to have been ejected from its binary system sometime during the formation of that system's planets.

The nearest population of binary stars are also dominant sources of rocky material like 'Oumuamua, leading scientists to believe the stars in the system are probably A-type of late-B type intermediate mass stars.

The Sun is a single star system, but there are many systems made up of two or more stars orbiting one another about a common focus.

The mysterious object is now speeding towards the outer edge of our solar system and is already too small and faint to be seen by NASA's telescopes.

For the study, Dr. Jackson and colleagues set about testing how efficient binary star systems are at ejecting objects. But this object from another star system wasn't entirely unexpected.

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Astronomers spotted the unusual object, which is roughly 800ft long and 100ft wide, through the powerful Pan-STARR telescope in Hawaii on October 19 past year.

Researchers have some good reasons for thinking that 'Oumuamua - which clocks in at an impressive 1,312 feet long - came to our solar system by way of a binary system.

The new study is published in the peer-reviewed journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. For planetary scientists like Jackson, being able to observe objects like these may yield important clues about how planet formation works in other star systems.

Past research has found that only three to 10 per cent of star systems contain Jupiter-sized planets.

But astronomers soon discovered the foreign object was natural in origin, and believed to have originated from the star Vega.

Research on Oumuamua will continue, notes the release, as several questions about it are still unanswered. Researchers are trying to determine how it got its cigar-like shape and from where it may have originated.

'Oumuamua's orbit has the highest eccentricity ever observed in an object passing through our solar system.

Lead researcher Dr Alan Jackson, from the University of Toronto in Canada, said: "It's remarkable that we've now seen for the first time a physical object from outside our solar system".

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