First detected on October 19, 2017 by the University of Hawaii's Pan-STARRS 1 telescope on Haleakala and plotted as part of a NASA survey to identify near-Earth objects, 'Oumuamua (Hawaiian for "Scout") was initially thought to be a comet.
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.
Models used in the new study, published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, show that binary systems are likely to spit out asteroids and comets onto interstellar trajectories at the same rate.
Scientists quickly turned telescopes toward 'Oumuamua to try to figure out all they could about the asteroid before it sped away from us forever. Researchers explained that this type of star system is more likely to have predominantly rocky bodies instead of icy bodies that orbit relatively close to the prime ejection zone. One question previously posed was whether the object came from a single star system or a two-star system, which is known as a binary system.
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"It's really odd that the first object we would see from outside our system would be an asteroid because a comet would be a lot easier to spot and the Solar System ejects many more comets than asteroids", said Jackson. A long, cigar-shaped object had flown through our little celestial neighborhood at a breakneck pace and flung itself around the sun before heading back out into deep space.
Researchers from the University of Toronto Scarborough found that rugged objects such as this puzzling piece likely derive from a binary star system, consisting of two stars orbiting a common center. They were also able to determine that rocky objects are ejected from binary systems in comparable numbers to icy objects.
Soon, the researchers along with Alan Jackson undertook computer-modeling and simulation where they found out that Oumuamua didn't originate from a single star system but a binary system i.e. a solar system with two stars.
That aspect ratio is greater than that of any asteroid or comet observed in our solar system to date. According to Jackson and his team, the asteroid was likely ejected from its system as planets formed. But another large object that can easily eject something could be another star. 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. However, its lack of comet-like activity and later analysis of its orbit and light curve indicated that it was an asteroid that had been flying through interstellar space for hundreds of million of years before briefly passing through our system.