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Scientists at Queen's University Belfast have led worldwide investigations into a mysterious object that passed close to Earth after arriving from deep interstellar space. Since the object was spotted in October, Professor Alan Fitzsimmons and Dr Michele Bannister from the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen's University have led an international team of astronomers to piece together a profile of the strange visitor, which has been named `Oumuamua.

 

The team was made up of researchers from elsewhere in the UK, the US, Canada, Taiwan and Chile and in total seven researchers from Queen's were involved.

 

Professor Alan Fitzsimmons headed up a team which measured the way that `Oumuamua, reflects sunlight, and found it similar to icy objects covered with a dry crust. This is because `Oumuamua has been exposed to cosmic rays for millions, or even billions, of years, creating an insulating organic-rich layer on its surface.

 

The research, which has been published this week in Nature Astronomy, suggests that `Oumuamua's dry crust could have protected its icy interior from being vaporised -- even though the object was just 23 million miles from our sun in September when it zipped past.

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Category: Science