‘Oumuamua: ‘space cigar’s’ tumble hints at violent past

‘Oumuamua: ‘space cigar’s’ tumble hints at violent past

The space interloper ‘Oumuamua is spinning chaotically and will carry on doing so for more than a billion years.

That is the conclusion of new Belfast research that has examined in detail the light bouncing off the cigar-shaped asteroid from outside our Solar System.

“At some point or another it’s been in a collision,” says Dr Wes Fraser from Queen’s University.

His team’s latest study is featured in Sunday’s Sky At Night episode on the BBC and published in Nature Astronomy.

It is yet another intriguing finding about this strange object that has fascinated scientists since its discovery back in October.

‘Oumuamua comes from a different star system. Its path across the sky confirms it does not originate in our solar neighbourhood.

Initially, it was thought the object could be a comet, but it displays none of the classic behaviour expected of these cosmic wanderers – such as a dusty, water-ice particle tail.

‘Oumuamua is in all likelihood an asteroid, albeit with a highly unusual shape. It has been described as resembling a cigar or cucumber, where the longest dimension is over 200m.

The Queen’s team wanted to establish the exact nature and rate of the object’s rotation.

To do this, the group studied variations in its brightness over time.

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