Spin Evolution and Cometary Interpretation of the Interstellar Minor Object 1I/2017 'Oumuamua
Astrophysical Journal Letters
MetadataShow full item record
Rafikov, R. (2018). Spin Evolution and Cometary Interpretation of the Interstellar Minor Object 1I/2017 'Oumuamua. Astrophysical Journal Letters, 867 (1) https://doi.org/10.3847/2041-8213/aae977
© 2018. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved. Observations of the first interstellar minor object 1I/2017 'Oumuamua did not reveal direct signs of outgassing that would have been natural if it had a volatile-rich composition. However, a recent measurement by Micheli et al. of a substantial non-gravitational acceleration affecting the orbit of this object has been interpreted as resulting from its cometary activity, which must be rather vigorous. Here we critically reassess this interpretation by exploring the implications of measured non-gravitational acceleration for 'Oumuamua's rotational state. We show that outgassing torques should drive the rapid evolution of 'Oumuamua's spin (on a timescale of a few days), assuming torque asymmetry that is typical for solar system comets. However, given the highly elongated shape of the object, its torque asymmetry is likely higher, implying an even faster evolution. This would have resulted in rapid rotational fission of 'Oumuamua during its journey through the solar system, and is clearly incompatible with the relative stability of its rotational state inferred from photometric variability. Based on these arguments, as well as the lack of direct signs of outgassing, we conclude that the classification of 'Oumuamua as a comet (invoked to explain its claimed anomalous acceleration) is questionable.
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.3847/2041-8213/aae977
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/286249