The mystery surrounding a space object that has baffled astronomers for more than five years appears to have been solved.
The irregularly shaped object about the size of a football field is not an alien probe as some have speculated, but is likely a comet that expels gas in a way other comets don’t, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
“We’ve gone through every weird, crazy, possible theory—ideas that stretch the imagination to match all of these observed things, and then we figure out that it is just the simplest thing you could possibly imagine, which is just a water-rich comet,” said Darryl Seligman, a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell University and co-author of the new study.
The comet, named ‘Oumuamua (pronounced “oh moo-uh moo-uh,”), was first seen in 2017 at an observatory in Hawaii. ‘Oumuamua in the Hawaiian language means a messenger from afar arriving first, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
‘Oumuamua passed by the sun at speeds of nearly 196,000 miles an hour, according to NASA, and its trajectory appears to show it likely traveled for many millions of years before arriving in this solar system.
The comet is the first known object to have entered the solar system from interstellar space. While it appeared to act like a comet, it does not have the usual comet “tail,” and instead appeared more like an asteroid, the study said.
The study released Wednesday used modeling to determine that ‘Oumuamua is a comet that had been restructured during its journey through space.