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Remember space junk ‘Oumuamua? A conventional explanation is now offered: Nitrogen ice from Pluto

Scientists determine the origin of extra-solar object 'Oumuamua
This painting by William K. Hartmann, who is a senior scientist emeritus at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, is based on a commission from Michael Belton and shows a concept of the ‘Oumuamua object as a pancake-shaped disk. Credit: William Hartmann

Rats. If ‘Oumuamua had been an extraterrestrial light sail, as Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb insisted (and defended in his recent book Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth), just think of the marketing opportunities. Forget the pandemic.

Okay, here’s the hangover:

Desch and Jackson found one ice in particular—solid nitrogen—that provided an exact match to all the object’s features simultaneously. And since solid nitrogen ice can be seen on the surface of Pluto, it is possible that a cometlike object could be made of the same material.

“We knew we had hit on the right idea when we completed the calculation for what albedo (how reflective the body is) would make the motion of ‘Oumuamua match the observations,” said Jackson, who is a research scientist and an Exploration Fellow at ASU. “That value came out as being the same as we observe on the surface of Pluto or Triton, bodies covered in nitrogen ice.”

They then calculated the rate at which chunks of solid nitrogen ice would have been knocked off the surfaces of Pluto and similar bodies early in our solar system’s history. And they calculated the probability that chunks of solid nitrogen ice from other solar systems would reach ours.

“It was likely knocked off the surface by an impact about half a billion years ago and thrown out of its parent system,” Jackson said. “Being made of frozen nitrogen also explains the unusual shape of ‘Oumuamua. As the outer layers of nitrogen ice evaporated, the shape of the body would have become progressively more flattened, just like a bar of soap does as the outer layers get rubbed off through use.”

Arizona State University, “Scientists determine the origin of extra-solar object ‘Oumuamua” at Phys.org (Marcy 17, 2021)

And ET?

ET is wanted in the makeup trailer. Filming starts again in 10 minutes:

“Everybody is interested in aliens, and it was inevitable that this first object outside the solar system would make people think of aliens,” Desch said. “But it’s important in science not to jump to conclusions. It took two or three years to figure out a natural explanation—a chunk of nitrogen ice—that matches everything we know about ‘Oumuamua. That’s not that long in science, and far too soon to say we had exhausted all natural explanations.”

Arizona State University, “Scientists determine the origin of extra-solar object ‘Oumuamua” at Phys.org (Marcy 17, 2021)

It’s not clear that, at Harvard, natural explanations were even tried.

Look, no grudge here. But it’s curious how folklore can prevail for ages in science, as long as it has a naturalistic origin. Maybe Top People shouldn’t count on everyone just forgetting that now.

Memory lane:

Tales of Oumuamua: Why are we still talking about the Oumuamua alien sighting panic? Oumuamua alien sighting panic?

What? Oumuamua Was Just A Comet? After All The ET Hype?

Astronomer: We’re too dumb to think space object Oumuamua was an extraterrestrial lightsail.Hmmm. In the real world, when you are an only child so far as you know, it is hard to compare yourself to your siblings. Few readily accept criticism for failure to measure up to the standards of imaginary beings.

Conventional Non-ET Explanations For Oumuamua

Astronomers: Solar System Object In Transit, Oumuamua, Might Be A “Light Sail Of Extra-Terrestrial Origin”

Why Some Scientists Saw Asteroid Oumuamua As ET

Why can top scientists get away with extraordinary claims?

Did Interstellar Object Oumuamua Normalize Space Aliens As Science In 2018?


Astronomers: Solar system object in transit, Oumuamua, might be a “light sail of extra-terrestrial origin”

Somebody's book sales just tanked... EDTA
I think the new term was, dwarf planet. kairosfocus
But I thought Pluto was an Unplanet now, who must be Photoshopped out of all pictures of the universe. polistra

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