Western University Tries to Trace Origins of Interstellar Objects Visiting Our Solar System

Simulated view of the arrival of interstellar comet 2I/Borisov at our solar system through the Milky Way galaxy. Credit: Western University.

Not content with just having Western alumni Robert Weryk discover the first known interstellar object passing through our solar system in 2017, researchers are trying to trace the origins of the two known interstellar objects.

The research was conducted at the university’s Institute for Earth & Space Exploration by professor Paul Wiegert and his former undergraduate student Tim Hallatt, now at McGill University.

The results of their initial research was submitted to the Astronomical Journal.

Wiergert and Hallat attempted to trace the origins of the two known interstellar objects, ‘Oumuamua, an asteroid discovered in 2017, and the comet 2I/Borisov, discovered earlier this year.

Below you can see simulated views of the arrival of these interstellar objects as they transit our solar system through the Milky Way galaxy.

Asteroid ‘Oumuamua transit simulation;

Comet 2I/Borisov transit simulation;

In a press release issued by Western, Hallatt said “our solar system is big. It contains all the planets and asteroids, everywhere we’ve ever been or sent a spacecraft to. But our galaxy is truly vast. It’s more than 100,000 times bigger than our solar system. The Milky Way Galaxy contains all the stars we can see on a clear night plus their solar systems. When a visitor from the wider galaxy passes through our solar system, we know we have an unprecedented opportunity to study something special.”

Wiegert and Hallatt have been tracing the motion back in time of the two objects. They say “the wider galaxy has more than 100 billion stars so determining the origin point of interstellar guests is no easy matter. Exactly how they form remains unknown.”

They first started tracing the path of ‘Oumuamua “and determined that because of its relatively low speed with respect to our galaxy, it could actually be quite young – astronomically speaking.”

To their surprise a second interstellar object was discovered earlier this, 2I/Borisov, and it became part of the study. They say “it’s likely much older than ‘Oumuamua making it that much harder to trace.”

Hallatt and Wiegert weren’t able to “determine ‘Oumuamua’s precise point of origin” but “were able to calculate that the origin should be within our local galactic neighbourhood and relatively easy to study telescopically, if only it could be found.”

“Being able to study the origin system of such travellers would provide a wealth of clues,” says Wiegert. “Though their origin remains elusive, we’re gradually drawing in the net. It’s only a matter of time before these travellers reveal their secret.”

About Marc Boucher

Marc Boucher
Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactice Inc. Boucher has 20 years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 27 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.