A mysterious interstellar asteroid is identical measurement and form as London’s well-known Gherkin skyscraper, astronomers have mentioned.
The big area rock, often known as “Oumuamua”, is the primary from exterior the photo voltaic system to ever be noticed by scientists.
Beforehand described as “cigar-shaped”, astronomers at Queen’s College, Belfast, and elsewhere have studied the asteroid and now estimate it to be the identical measurement and form as London’s Gherkin skyscraper – which is about 180m (591ft) tall.
The most recent analysis additionally suggests the rock, which withstood extremely excessive temperatures when it swung by way of our photo voltaic system, has been shielded from the solar’s warmth by a mysterious insulating crust.
Researchers, together with scientists from the US, Canada, Taiwan and Chile, consider they’ve made “key observations” about what its half-metre thick crust is fabricated from.
Dr Michele Bannister, whose analysis is printed in Astrophysical Journal Letters, mentioned the rock “seems to be a lot like a tiny world from our own residence system”.
She mentioned: “This object went previous the solar and it was solely heated like a superb oven cooking a cake. It wasn’t truly significantly sizzling.
“The floor composition is constant of a layer of insulating materials, so one thing alongside the strains of mud and grit, perhaps natural compounds.
“We do not know that the inside does include ice but when it did include ice it will have been insulated by the layer on the floor.”
The rock was scanned for radio indicators after its distinctive form – extremely uncommon for an asteroid – sparked hypothesis it might be an alien ship.
Nevertheless, the scans discovered “no proof of synthetic indicators emanating from the thing” and it’s not believed to be an alien vessel.
Oumuamua, which is Haiwaiian for scout or messenger, is the primary object discovered within the photo voltaic system that’s believed to be from one other a part of the galaxy.
It was noticed by College of Hawaii astronomers in October after it handed the Earth at roughly 85 instances the space of the moon.
Professor Alan Fitzsimmons, who can be based mostly at Queen’s and whose separate analysis paper is printed in Nature Astronomy, mentioned the “half-metre thick coating of organic-rich materials may have protected a water-ice-rich comet-like inside from vaporising when the thing was heated by the solar, despite the fact that it was heated to over 300 levels centigrade”.
Dr Bannister mentioned: “The great factor about driftwood is that it tells you that there is timber that develop on distant shores, so it is a little tangible piece of proof that the best way planets shaped and grew in our personal photo voltaic system, it is occurring the identical approach in different photo voltaic techniques far-off.”
She added: “Not one of the astronomers have ever talked about it being something alien, besides that it comes from exterior the photo voltaic system.”