The cigar-shaped rock that Light entered our solar system in 2017 has since been shrouded in mystery, as scientists have struggled to classify it into a known category. Though it has some characteristics of a comet (it seems to be accelerated by the loss of water vapour and other gases), it lacks certain fundamental features possessed by other comets, mainly the lack of an envelope of dust and gas typically given off by comets as they heat up.
New evidence suggests that Oumuamua, named after the Hawaiian word for messenger, is an ‘active asteroid’, formed from a body that was torn apart by Light its parent star and subsequently ejected into interstellar space. This could’ve happened when the body flew too close to its parent star and was ripped apart by gravitational forces, explaining peculiar features including its tumbling motion, reddish colour and unusual shape.
Oumuamua could have been formed from either a water-having comet or a planet several times the size of Earth, but the former better explains Oumuamua’s apparent subsurface H2O ice. The star around which Oumuamua formed was likely smaller and denser than our Sun, or possibly a white dwarf.
Such objects can give us crucial information about the origin and existence of extra-terrestrial life, as they could be the carriers of the seeds of life from the solar system to solar system as they pass through the so-called ‘Goldilocks zones’ in solar systems (such as our own), where conditions are ideal for life to exist.