A new study has revealed that the mysterious interstellar asteroid Oumuamua might be possessing water in its interior in the form of ice. As per the latest research, water might be trapped beneath a thick carbon-rich organic coating present on its surface. This indicates that the odd-shaped object might possess ice inside it just like a comet and is covered with thick layer of crust.
Hence, the researchers believe that Oumuamua has natural origins and this water ice might have come from a star present beyond our solar system. Lead author of the study Alan Fitzsimmons from the Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland explained that just like our own solar system has more icy stuffs than rocky stuffs, other solar systems might also possess objects that are icy in nature and that is why they doubt Oumuamua to possess water ice inside it.
“We know that our solar system has ejected many more icy bodies then rocky bodies,” said Fitzsimmons. He informed that when our solar system was formed, many gaseous and icy planets were formed near the outer edges of the solar system. These planets ejected trillions of objects. Some icy objects were pulled by other outside stars due to gravitational disruption. Hence, scientists believe that this Oumuamua might be one of those icy interstellar objects that possess the character of a comet.
Fitzsimmons said, “Given that this object passed relatively close to our sun as it was traveling through our solar system, one would expect any ices on the surface to basically be heated, and it should behave like a comet. We should see gas streaming off the surface, we should see dust particles being ejected in the cometary atmosphere, perhaps even a tail.” But telescopic observations made by different astronomers suggest that the mysterious space rock showed no signs of a comet tail despite its close approach to the sun. So, they decided to call the mysterious object an odd-shaped asteroid.
But the scientists involved in the latest research are not ready to call the strange object an asteroid. Fitzsimmons said that they didn’t see any signs of typical spectroscopic signatures that one would expect from the minerals on the surface of an asteroid seen in our solar system. He further said, “It rather seems to resemble the [icy] objects that are there in the outer solar system.” Explaining about what made Oumuamua lose its icy layer and get a thick carbon-rich layer, the scientists said that owing to Oumuamua’s millions of years of exposure to cosmic rays, the ice from the surface layer would have evaporated and an insulating, carbon-rich layer on the outside would have been created that could have shielded an icy interior.
The scientists got all these findings by running computer simulations of the recorded data. They also measured the way that ‘Oumuamua reflects sunlight. All the results suggested that Oumuamua has an icy interior covered by a thick layer of carbonic compounds which protect the ice from ejecting gas and dust during its close flyby to Sun.