The solar system may have received fewer interstellar objects than we thought – the clare people



The 1I / ʻOumuamua (or simply Oumuamua, if you prefer) is an object from outside the solar system that was identified in 1024 and, almost two years later, it was the turn of comet 2I / Borisov to be discovered wandering here. Although the visit to the two objects was quick, they gave rise to some interesting questions. After all, what part of the solar system actually formed here? And how much of the material at the origin of our neighborhood is actually part of objects outside of it? Because these are the questions researchers at the University of Michigan and the California Institute of Technology are trying to answer in a new study.

  • With current technology, could we sample objects like the Oumuamua?
  • Interstellar objects could disappear before approaching Earth
  • How often does the solar system receive interstellar objects?
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    When they arrived in the solar system, these objects fueled speculation about how many other interstellar objects might exist in the galaxy – there could be hundreds, if not billions, but the exact amount depends on the frequency of debris ejection after the formation of planetary systems. So far, no extrasolar object has yet been found orbiting the Sun, which doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t exist. However, studying one at a time for an “alien” asteroid or comet is a slow process, as we don’t know exactly how often these rocks occur.

    The discovery of Comet Borisov, pictured above, and Oumuamua, has increased the importance of understanding the dynamics of interstellar objects (Image: Reproduction / NASA / ESA / K. Meech / D. Jewitt)

    So, the study’s authors suggested estimating the number of interstellar objects observed and monitoring how long they stay here. To do this, they carried out a series of simulations accompanied by the study of the behavior of more than 13,000 objects arriving at the Solar System in all possible directions and speeds. The team then linked the evolution of these simulated objects to conditions in the solar system 1 billion years ago and found that most visitors would not survive here for very long.

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    If they were to orbit from Jupiter, they would either be swallowed up by the planet or expelled into the rest of the system. On the other hand, if they approached an aircraft close to other planets, gravitational influences would likely push objects outward. Therefore, the tendency to stay here for millions of years is more due to the wide and elongated eye sockets, so it would take a few million years to find out if they will really stay here for the long term.

    Of the more than 13,000 simulated objects, only 270 would remain here for more than 270 million years, and only 3 have survived for a billion years. Regarding the estimate of the number of people passing through the solar system, the researchers concluded that the Sun may have captured enough objects during its youth to form 1/1000 of the mass of the Earth thus, which is enough to form six asteroids the size of the dwarf planet Ceres. Therefore, since the formation of the solar system, it is possible that few objects similar to Oumuamua and Borisov have appeared here every year.

    Oumuamua spent little time in the solar system, especially compared to the thousands of years he spent traveling through interstellar space (Image: Reproduction / YU Jingchuan)

    This result has important implications. First, scientists shouldn’t be so concerned with finding external objects while visiting our system, because then they would be extremely rare. Second, the panspermia theory, which proposes that life could have hitchhiked to Earth on a space object, would not be as tenable as there would not be enough matter traveling through. galaxy and entering planetary systems to make this happen.

    The article with the study results has been accepted for publication in The Planetary Science Journal and can be viewed in the arXiv online repository, without peer review at this time.


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