Harvard Astronomers Challenge Theory That ‘Oumuamua Was a Nitrogen Iceberg

"Although Oumuamua probably isn't some probe looking for humpbacked whales," writes Slashdot reader alaskana98, "it does continue to deliver plenty of intrigue — and controversy — for those astronomy buffs out there. "In the latest move in the war on who gets to define what exactly OuMuaMua is, Harvard astrophysicists Amir Siraj and Avi Loeb have countered the prevailing hypothesis that it is a frozen chunk of nitrogen with their own — that it is simply not possible." LiveScience reports: According to Siraj and his co-author, Harvard astrophysicist Avi Loeb, Jackson and Desch's conclusion that 'Oumuamua is a nitrogen iceberg is flawed because there isn't enough nitrogen in the universe to make an object like 'Oumuamua, which is somewhere between 1,300 and 2,600 feet (400 and 800 meters) long and between 115 and 548 feet (35 and 167 m) wide. Pure nitrogen is rare, Siraj said, and has been found only on Pluto, where it makes up about 0.5% of the total mass. Even if all of the nitrogen ice in the universe was scraped off every Pluto-like planet that's predicted to exist, there still wouldn't be enough nitrogen to make 'Oumuamua.

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