On the Anomalous Acceleration of 1I/2017 U1 `Oumuamua

12 Mar 2019  ·  Seligman Darryl, Laughlin Gregory, Batygin Konstantin ·

We show that the $P\sim8\,{\rm h}$ photometric period and the astrometrically measured $A_{\rm ng}\sim2.5\times10^{-4}\,{\rm cm\,s^{-2}}$ non-gravitational acceleration (at $r\sim1.4\,{\rm AU}$) of the interstellar object 1I/2017 (`Oumuamua) can be explained by a nozzle-like venting of volatiles whose activity migrated to track the sub-solar location on the object's surface. Adopting the assumption that `Oumuamua was an elongated $a\times b \times c$ ellipsoid, this model produces a pendulum-like rotation of the body and implies a long semi-axis $a\sim 5A_{\rm ng}P^2/4\pi^2 \sim 260\,{\rm m}$... This scale agrees with the independent estimates of `Oumuamua's size that stem from its measured brightness, assuming an albedo of $p\sim0.1$, appropriate to ices that have undergone long-duration exposure to the interstellar cosmic ray flux. Using ray-tracing, we generate light curves for ellipsoidal bodies that are subject to both physically consistent sub-solar torques and to the time-varying geometry of the Sun-Earth-`Oumuamua configuration. Our synthetic light curves display variations from chaotic tumbling and changing cross-sectional illumination that are consistent with the observations, while avoiding significant secular changes in the photometric periodicity. If our model is correct, `Oumuamua experienced mass loss that wasted $\sim 10\%$ of its total mass during the $\sim 100\,{\rm d}$ span of its encounter with the inner Solar System and had an icy composition with a very low $[{\rm C}/{\rm O}]\lesssim 0.003$. Our interpretation of `Oumuamua's behavior is consistent with the hypothesis that it was ejected from either the outer regions of a planetesimal disk after an encounter with an embedded $M_{\rm p} \sim M_{\rm Nep}$ planet or from an exo-Oort cloud. read more

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Earth and Planetary Astrophysics