Oort cloud at edge of solar system is full of ‘interstellar objects’, scientists suggest

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The Oort cloud at the edge of our solar system could be filled with interstellar objects, scientists say.

The new document comes in the wake of the arrival of Borisov, a snowball that made its way to Earth in 2019 and turned out to be from another solar system. It is the first and only such interstellar comet that researchers have ever seen.

But a new article suggests the object is not uncommon, and that interstellar visitors – not just comets but asteroids and other debris as well – could be much more common than we think.

Indeed, the Oort Cloud, which is a theoretical shell of trash at the edge of our solar system, may have more interstellar objects than those that started in our vicinity, suggests the new study.

The research comes from Harvard astronomers Amir Siraj and Avi Loeb and is published in the Monthly notices from the Royal Astronomical Society.

“Before the detection of the first interstellar comet, we had no idea how many interstellar objects were in our solar system, but the theory on the formation of planetary systems suggests there should be fewer visitors than permanent residents. “says Siraj, an undergraduate and graduate student competitor in the Harvard Department of Astronomy and lead author of the study.

“Now we are seeing that there could be a lot more visitors. “

In the study, scientists performed calculations using data extracted from Borisov during his study on his trip. As such, there are a multitude of uncertainties about the exact number of interstellar visitors, but it seems clear that there are more than those native to our own solar system.

“Let’s say I watch a mile-long stretch of railroad for a day and watch a car cross it. I can say that on that day the observed rate of cars passing through the section of railroad was one per day per mile, ”Siraj said in a statement.

“But if I have any reason to believe the sighting was not a one-time event – say, noticing a pair of crossing gates built for cars – then I can take it a step further and start drawing statistical conclusions. on the whole rate of cars crossing this section of railroad.

Despite this large number of visitors, the researchers spotted only one defined interstellar comet. Much of this could be due to the fact that they are so difficult to see – the Oort Cloud sits up to 100,000 billion kilometers from the Sun and does not create any light on its own, meaning that it hides at the edge of the solar system out of sight.

But the researchers hope to put the data to the test using objects that are closer than the Oort Cloud and therefore easier to see. Researchers will be able to look at the data on the asteroids detected and see if they are truly interstellar and simply weren’t recognized as such.

Much of this work will be facilitated by the launch of the Vera C Rubin Observatory, which is expected next year. The researchers speculated that many more interstellar visitors would be detected by this telescope – which is currently under construction in Chile – and astronomers will be able to use this information to understand how many of them could be in our solar system.


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