The study’s authors, Alan Jackson and Steven Desch, think an impact knocked a chunk off an icy nitrogen-covered planet 500 million years ago and sent the piece tumbling out of its own star system, toward ours. The reddish remnant is believed to be a sliver of its original self, its outer layers evaporated by cosmic radiation and, more recently, the sun.
It’s named Oumuamua, Hawaiian for scout, in honor of the observatory in Hawaii that discovered it in 2017.
Visible only as a pinpoint of light millions of miles away at its closest approach, it was determined to have originated beyond our solar system because its speed and path suggested it wasn’t orbiting the sun or anything else.
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