Science'Oumuamua isn't an alien spaceship — it's a rock...

‘Oumuamua isn’t an alien spaceship — it’s a rock that’s farting hydrogen, new study suggests

The bizarre movements of the interstellar object ‘Oumuamua may have a reasonable explanation that has nothing to do with intelligent aliens, new research finds. 

The strange interstellar visitor — the first object ever detected in our solar system that originated outside it — triggered a scientific mystery when researchers saw it accelerating away from the pull of the sun’s gravity. Comets show this kind of odd acceleration when ice within them starts to be heated by the sun, but ‘Oumuamua was no comet. The mystery even had some commenters speculating that ‘Oumuamua might be an alien spacecraft.

But a new study published Wednesday (March 22) in the journal Nature (opens in new tab) reveals a more mundane explanation: Hydrogen molecules trapped within ice below ‘Oumuamua’s surface may have been released from the object as the sun warmed it, slightly slowing ‘Oumuamua’s flight past the sun. These hydrogen molecules would not have been detectable in scientists’ observations of ‘Oumuamua, lead study author Jennifer Bergner (opens in new tab), a chemist at the University of California, Berkeley, told Live Science. 

This simulation depicts the interstellar object ‘Oumuamua as a mass of fragments forced into an elongated shape by stellar tidal forces. (Image credit: ZHANG Yun/background by ESO/M. Kornmesser)

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