Spitzer Observations of Interstellar Object 1I/‘Oumuamua

December 2018 • 2018AJ....156..261T

Authors • Trilling, David E. • Mommert, Michael • Hora, Joseph L. • Farnocchia, Davide • Chodas, Paul • Giorgini, Jon • Smith, Howard A. • Carey, Sean • Lisse, Carey M. • Werner, Michael • McNeill, Andrew • Chesley, Steven R. • Emery, Joshua P. • Fazio, Giovanni • Fernandez, Yanga R. • Harris, Alan • Marengo, Massimo • Mueller, Michael • Roegge, Alissa • Smith, Nathan • Weaver, H. A. • Meech, Karen • Micheli, Marco

Abstract • 1I/‘Oumuamua is the first confirmed interstellar body in our solar system. Here we report on observations of ‘Oumuamua made with the Spitzer Space Telescope on 2017 November 21-22 (UT). We integrated for 30.2 hr at 4.5 μm (IRAC channel 2). We did not detect the object and place an upper limit on the flux of 0.3 μJy (3σ). This implies an effective spherical diameter less than [98, 140, 440] m and albedo greater than [0.2, 0.1, 0.01] under the assumption of low, middle, or high thermal beaming parameter η, respectively. With an aspect ratio for ‘Oumuamua of 6:1, these results correspond to dimensions of [240:40, 341:57, 1080:180] m, respectively. We place upper limits on the amount of dust, CO, and CO2 coming from this object that are lower than previous results; we are unable to constrain the production of other gas species. Both our size and outgassing limits are important because ‘Oumuamua’s trajectory shows non-gravitational accelerations that are sensitive to size and mass and presumably caused by gas emission. We suggest that ‘Oumuamua may have experienced low-level post-perihelion volatile emission that produced a fresh, bright, icy mantle. This model is consistent with the expected η value and implied high-albedo value for this solution, but, given our strict limits on CO and CO2, requires another gas species—probably H2O—to explain the observed non-gravitational acceleration. Our results extend the mystery of ‘Oumuamua’s origin and evolution.


IPAC Authors

Sean Carey

Senior Scientist