'Oumuamua was one the strangest objects we have encountered traveling through our solar system. It came from a different star system, and we didn't know much about it. However, many interstellar objects likely crashed across the solar system. Here is how to find them.
Astrophysicists at Yale University studied how interstellar objects can create impact craters and whether these are easily identifiable. The discovery and subsequent investigation of ‘Oumuamua and Comet 2I/Borisov in 2017 and 2019, respectively, have sparked considerable interest in these objects within the scientific community.
Much has been said, written, and published about ‘Oumuamua, the strangest objects we have encountered traveling through our solar system. Renowned astronomer Professor Avi Loeb even wrote a book about the interstellar object he suggested may have even been a remnant of ancient alien technology due to the odd and unique characteristics ‘Oumuamua displayed as it moved away from us. In fact, Professor Loeb and his team plan to search for an interstellar object that crashed into our planet in 2014 off the coast of Papua New Guinea.
A study by Yale researchers set to be published in Earth and Planetary Astrophysics, available on arXiv, discusses the possibility of using the impact melt volume within fixed-diameter craters to identify craters produced by interstellar objects since higher velocity impacts produce more impact melt. Sam Cabot, a doctoral candidate in Yale University’s Department of Astronomy, described Oumuamua and Borisov as landmark discoveries. “They have generated a considerable response in the astrophysics community. At present, no theory adequately explains all aspects of `Oumuamua.
Our strongest evidence points to an entirely new astronomical object that goes beyond comets and asteroids. A peculiar feature of Comet Borisov was its composition, which was different from that of many comets in our own Solar System. As a result of its ejection, it provides information about the early stages of planet formation.”
Interstellar objects and evidence
Hydrodynamic simulations were conducted with projectiles of varying masses and impact speeds exceeding 100 km per second for their study. ” In their study, the authors write that since there are probably only a few ISO (Interstellar objects) craters in the Solar System and transient crater dimension is not a distinguishing feature for impact velocities up to 100 km/s, it is difficult to identify an ISO crater.
Based on current hypotheses, impacts within our solar system never reach speeds equal to or greater than 100 km per second, so these speeds are rarely used in science. In the paper, the authors discuss how impact melt volumes to diameter ratios can help identify interstellar craters. Still, they conclude that in situ analysis or the return of samples from robotic or manned missions may be able to locate them shortly.
Evidence of Interstellar objects on the Moon?
A study focused specifically on impacts on the Moon because interstellar objects have a higher encounter speed than asteroids and comets, the authors write. “The most promising indicators of an interstellar impact involve chemical analysis of the material in and around the crater,” explains Cabot. “The Artemis missions may be crucial here, as they will offer some of the first opportunities to analyze soil and rock on the Moon since the Apollo program. Right now, however, it’s hard to pinpoint a specific crater.”
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