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

Christopher Davidson
November 7, 2018

Harvard researchers say it's possible that a mysterious object hurtling through space could be an alien spacecraft sent intentionally to Earth's vicinity by another civilisation.

That's why the researchers raise the possibility that Oumuamua's an alien craft in the new issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The change in course and speed was so pronounced they concluded it "might be a lightsail of artificial origin".

If Oumuamua is evidence of an alien civilization seeking out life beyond its home solar system, we may never know.

"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. 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". One such project, Breakthrough Starshot, is aiming to send hundreds of tiny, lightsail-operated probes to a nearby solar system next year.

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.

Coryn Bailer-Jones, an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, said: "In science, we must ask ourselves 'Where is the evidence?"

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Before he died in March, Professor Stephen Hawking said: "Researchers working on long-distance space transportation have previously suggested that a cigar or needle shape is the most likely architecture for an interstellar spacecraft, since this would minimize friction and damage from interstellar gas and dust".

He raised questions in particular about the object's tumbling motion.

"News reports that a team of scientists studying the odd, "reddish, stadium-sized" mass that 'tumbled past the sun" in late 2017 say they believe the item could be extraterrestrial in nature, and may not be natural.

"Why send a spacecraft which is doing this?" he said.

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".

The object shot past our Sun last October, being observed as something literally from out of this world (i.e. not from our solar system).

In December 2017 it was announced the astronomers were going to scan Oumuamua for signs of alien life.

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