Queen's researchers say spinning asteroid had 'violent past'

Queen's researchers say spinning asteroid had 'violent past'

The asteroid, dubbed "Oumuamua", flew through our solar system "chaotically" as a result of a "violent" collision billions of years ago, researchers have said.

The long, narrow rock - in case you had forgotten - has apparently been tumbling for quite some time and it began its awkward spin long before it entered our Solar System, but researchers only just noticed its behavior due thanks to observations of the amount of light the object reflects towards Earth.

Dr Wes Fraser, lead author of the study, said: "Our modelling of this body suggests the tumbling will last for many billions of years to hundreds of billions of years before internal stresses cause it to rotate normally again". Instead, the alleged interstellar space rock is spinning or tumbling chaotically and this chaotic tumbling might have there for billions of years.

Although scientists have not got any valid reason as to why Oumuamua is tumbling chaotically, they suspect that a violent collision might have sent the asteroid tumbling in the interstellar space. They have been working with an global team, including Dr Petr Pravec from the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Dr Colin Snodgrass from The Open University and Igor Smolic ́from the University of Belgrade.

The unusual movement of 'Oumuamua also puzzles the scientists.

While it is hard to pinpoint the exact reason for this, it is thought that 'Oumuamua impacted with another asteroid before it was fiercely thrown out of its system and into interstellar space.

Scientists from Queen's University Belfast will present the new findings in leading science journal Nature Astronomy.

Alien hunters at SETI - the Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence based at Berkeley University, California said there was a possibility the rock was "an alien artefact".

The researchers also revealed that Oumuamua's surface is spotty and its long elongated face is red in color.

Between its organic insulation, weird trajectory, and ancient past, Oumuamua is probably the most interesting asteroid/comet thing in our solar system right now-hopefully we can learn even more about it before it leaves. Most of the surface appears to be the color of dirty snow, and there's a large red spot on one side. Our results are really helping to paint a complete picture of this odd interstellar interloper.

"Tumbling is an unusual state of rotation", Fraser said during Sunday's episode of the BBC's long-running Sky at Night show. This is the third paper to be published by their team, which includes PhD students Meabh Hyland and Thomas Seccull.

QUB scientists Dr Wes Fraser, Dr Pedro Lacerda, Dr Michele Bannister, and Professor Alan Fitzsimmons, are not sure why this is happening.

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