Scientists reveal mysterious 'Oumuamua' object could be an alien spacecraft

Rodiano Bonacci
Novembre 6, 2018

Two Harvard researchers are raising the possibility that a mysterious space object seen tumbling past the sun a year ago - known as Oumuamua - is an alien spacecraft. In fact, in their article, published this week in the The Astrophysical Journal Letters, they claim the object "may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization". But its "flattened, elongated shape and the way it accelerated on its way through the solar system set it apart from conventional asteroids and comets", reports NBC News.

At first, astronomers thought the rapidly moving faint light was a regular comet or an asteroid that had originated in our solar system.

In the paper, the pair theorize that the object's high speed and its unusual trajectory could be the result of it no longer being operational. The team termed the possible propulsion system a "lightsail of artificial origin".

"It is impossible to guess the objective behind Oumuamua without more data", Avi Loeb, chairman of Harvard's astronomy department and a co-author of the paper, told NBC News in an email. However, he adds that, if Oumuamua is indeed a lightsail, it may have run into our solar system "like a ship bumping into a buoy on the surface of the ocean".

Mr Loeb is an adviser to Breakthrough Starshot, an initiative that plans to send a fleet of tiny laser-powered lightsail craft to the nearest star system.

Loeb and his collaborator, Shmuel Bialy, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, acknowledge the alien spacecraft scenario is an "exotic" one - and other scientists are doubtful.

Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI (Search for extraterrestrial intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, California, said: "It's certainly ingenious to show that an object the size of Oumumua might be sent by aliens to another star system with nothing but a solar sail for power".

"Not 'where is the lack of evidence so that I can fit in any hypothesis that I like?"

Scientists have been puzzling over "Oumuamua" ever since the mysterious object was seen tumbling past the sun in late 2017.

He said: "If it were a spacecraft, this tumbling would make it impossible to keep any instruments pointed at the Earth".

Mr Loeb called his findings "purely scientific and evidence-based" and added: "I follow the maxim of Sherlock Holmes: when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth". Given the name "Oumuamua" - which means messenger from afar arriving first, or scout, in Hawaiian - the object is believed to be the first interstellar visitor to our solar system.

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