Science and Exploration

Significant Interstellar Object Production By Close Stellar Flybys

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
April 18, 2021
Filed under ,
Significant Interstellar Object Production By Close Stellar Flybys
Timeline of the ISO production mechanisms over the lifetime of a solar-type star (adapted from Pfalzner & Bannister 2019). The question marks underneath the various maxima indicate that the relative amount of ISOs produced by the different mechanisms is still unknown. However, here, we can add the typical ISO ejection velocities for the various processes.

Within just two years, two interstellar objects (ISOs) – Oumuamuas and Borisov – have been discovered. Large quantities of planetesimals form as a by-product of planet formation.
Therefore, it seems likely that ISOs are former planetesimals that became unbound from their parent star. The discoveries raise the question of the dominant ISO formation process. Here, we concentrate on planetesimals released during another star’s close flybys. We quantify the amount of planetesimals released during close stellar flybys, their ejection velocity and likely composition.

We study the dependence of the effect of parabolic flybys on the mass ratio between the perturber and parent star, the periastron distance, inclination, and angle of periastron. Whenever ISOs are produced, they leave their parent system typically with velocities of 0.5-2 km/s. This ejection velocity is distinctly different to that of ISOs produced by planet scattering (4-8 km/s) and those shed during the stellar post-main-sequence phase 0.1-0.2 km/s). Using the typical disc truncation radius in various cluster environments, we find that clusters like the Orion nebula cluster are likely to produce the equivalent of 0.85 Earth-masses of ISOs per star.

In contrast, clusters like NGC 3603 could produce up to 50 Earth-masses of ISOs per star. Our solar system probably produced the equivalent of 2-3 Earth masses of ISOs, which left our solar system at a mean ejection velocity of 0.7 km/s. Most ISOs produced by flybys should be comet-like, similar to Borisov. ISOs originating from compact long-lived clusters would often show a deficiency in CO. As soon as a statistically significant sample of ISOs is discovered, the combined information of their observed velocities and composition might help in constraining the dominant production process (abridged).

Susanne Pfalzner, Luis Aizpuru Vargas, Asmita Bhandare, Dimitri Veras

Comments: 13 pages, 10 figures, accepted for A&A
Subjects: Solar and Stellar Astrophysics (astro-ph.SR)
Cite as: arXiv:2104.06845 [astro-ph.SR] (or arXiv:2104.06845v1 [astro-ph.SR] for this version)
Submission history
From: Susanne Pfalzner Prof Dr
[v1] Wed, 14 Apr 2021 13:25:24 UTC (822 KB)

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