Astronomers have found the first interstellar organics on asteroid

CC BY-SA 4.0 / ESO/M. Kornmesser / So the artist has depicted the first interstellar asteroid OmwamwiAstronomers have found the first interstellar organics on asteroidCC BY-SA 4.0 / ESO/M. Kornmesser /

The surface of the asteroid Omoloi, the first interstellar «guest» of the Solar system, was covered with a thick layer of organic matter, which protects the ice from evaporation under the action of the Sun’s rays, according to a paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

«We found that the surface Omwamwi similar in structure and composition to the small celestial bodies of the Solar system, is covered by ice-rich organic matter, which are constantly bombarding cosmic rays. This «crust» of organic matter are two feet thick protected the depths of the asteroid, rich in ice, from evaporation under the action of sunlight, despite the fact that it was heated to a temperature of 300 degrees Celsius,» says Alan Fitzsimmons (Alan Fitzsimmons) from Queen’s University in Belfast (UK).

Two months ago, the participants of the project Pan-STARRS aimed at finding near-earth asteroids, told the world about the incredible discovery they discovered the first celestial body, flown into the Solar system from the interstellar medium. Initially they considered his discovery of a comet and gave her a cipher (a temporary name) C/U1 2017.

Before she left the immediate surroundings of the Sun and Earth, astronomers from all over the world have time to fully study this heavenly body. They collected data pointed to the fact that it is more like an asteroid than a comet, as it has no tail, and the density is significantly above the typical values for comets. For this reason, it received the official name 1I/U1 2017 and while the informal «nickname» Omwamwi, «scout» in the language of the people of Hawaii.

The discovery of this object, as noted by Michelle Bannister (Michelle Bannister), lead author from the University of Victoria in Vancouver (Canada), drew the attention of all the astronomers of the world, for which Omwamwi was the first real «window» into the world of Geology the distant planetary systems.

Fitzsimmons, Bannister, and their colleagues have obtained the first data, watching Omwamwi in the optical and infrared ranges using the telescope of William Herschel, established in the Canary Islands, at the end of October this year, when interstellar asteroid as much closer to the Sun.

The first results of these observations turned out to be a real mystery for astronomers – they have not detected any of the typical signs of comets, none of the characteristic markings of the asteroids in the spectrum of 1I/U1 2017. Moreover, further observation of Omwamwi showed that its chemical composition may vary considerably for different points of the surface, and that it is closer in its structure and collection of minerals to the dwarf planets and asteroids of the S-class with much more impressive dimensions.

Further observations and measurements of the reflectivity Omwamwi showed that this object was most similar in their appearance to comets and asteroids, whose surface was figuratively «smoked» a large number of organic materials that are constantly being bombarded by cosmic rays and other high energy particles.

Due to this surface was painted a reddish-brown color, indicating that this «heavenly stone» held in the open space of not less than 10 million years, and the asteroid was not vaporized completely in the moment of rapprochement with the Sun.

«It’s amazing how this first interstellar object is similar to many small worlds of our own Solar system. This suggests that the planets and smaller celestial bodies not very different in different stellar systems. We continue to explore Omwamwi and hope that we will be able to uncover his other secrets. Such things always make people think what or who could be hiding in the depths of space,» concluded Bannister.