Could we use ra­dio­met­ric dat­ing on ‘Ou­mua­mua?

BBC Earth (Asia) - - Q&A - AGu

Dis­cov­ered last Oc­to­ber, ‘Ou­mua­mua was the first ob­ject of in­ter­stel­lar ori­gin found within the So­lar Sys­tem. It is a fas­ci­nat­ing ob­ject; an elon­gated red rock about 230 me­tres long, by 35 me­tres wide, but its ori­gin is a com­plete mys­tery. Ra­dio­met­ric dat­ing has been used very suc­cess­fully to date me­te­orites found on Earth and pre­sum­ably could be use­ful for dat­ing ‘Ou­mua­mua too. For such a study the ru­bid­ium-stron­tium or samar­ium-neodymium iso­tope ra­tios would nor­mally be mea­sured by mass spec­trom­e­ter. As­sum­ing that a sam­ple of ‘Ou­mua­mua could be re­turned to Earth un­con­tam­i­nated, that there are suf­fi­cient quan­ti­ties of the re­quired iso­topes present and that no phys­i­cal pro­cesses have al­tered the iso­tope ra­tios since for­ma­tion, a rea­son­able es­ti­mate of the age of ‘Ou­mua­mua should be pos­si­ble.

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