Vera Rubin Will Discover Many More Extraterrestrial Objects

Vera Rubin Will Discover Many More Extraterrestrial Objects
Vera Rubin Will Discover Many More Extraterrestrial Objects - A drawing of an interstellar object approaching our solar system. Credit: Rubin Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. daSilva

The vast majority of comets we can see in the sky are products of our solar system. They may have developed far inside the Oort cloud, and for some this may be their first entry into the solar system, but they are clearly descendants of the Sun. Omuamua and Borisov are the only extrasolar objects we know of. We haven't discovered any other interstellar visitors to our solar system, but there may be more. But that may change once the Rubin Observatory becomes operational.

We know that star systems have the capacity to throw garbage into interstellar space. Early in a system's life, planetary orbits can change dramatically, and close encounters with asteroids or even planets can provide them with enough kinetic energy to counter the gravitational pull of their star. Smaller things like asteroids and comets may escape detection more easily, and we've found a few rogue planets. Therefore, the galaxy is filled with a large number of interstellar objects.

How many of these extrasolar planets actually arrived in our solar system?

Oumuamua and Borisov were found only by chance because they passed through the inner solar system. Oumuamua has a maximum size of 19 and Borisov has a maximum size of 15.

And we were only able to detect their interstellar paths after a series of observations. According to random statistics, interstellar objects are more likely to be found outside our solar system. This means they will be harder to discover and much darker.

The Space and Time Heritage Survey (LSST), which will catalog solar system objects, is one of the Rubin Observatory's programs. Data collection targets include more than 5 million asteroid belt objects, 300.000 Jupiter Trojans, 100.000 near-Earth objects, and more than 40.000 Kuiper belt objects. Many of these objects will be detected dozens, perhaps hundreds of times, as Rubin can scan the visible night sky every few days.

We will have access to a lot of data to determine their positions and trajectories. Interstellar objects will be noticeable even in the far reaches of our solar system.

The Rubin Observatory team anticipates finding dozens of extraterrestrial visitors in its first year of operation. From their motion and spectra we will be able to learn about the origins of these bodies as well as their chemistry. This will help us understand how planetary systems, including our own, formed.

Years ago, the first exoplanet hunt attempts revolutionized our knowledge of planetary systems. While only a few planets are known, countless planets are known today. Similar changes will occur in our understanding of our solar system, thanks to Rubin's LSST project. This project will compile the most comprehensive database of Sun's ancestors as well as occasional extraterrestrial visitors.


📩 14/08/2023 11:19