Mysterious object spotted in solar system may have been an alien probe

Pat Wise
November 10, 2018

A mysterious cigar-shaped object spotted tumbling through our solar system previous year may have been an alien spacecraft sent to investigate Earth, astronomers from Harvard University have suggested.

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

The scientists also noted that light-sails with similar dimensions have originated on earth.

The latest theory shedding more light on the nature of Oumuamua comes from a study carried out by two astronomers from the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. While there's a possibility that the object is merely an abnormally thin, extremely large naturally-occurring piece of interstellar rock - it didn't emit any radio signals detectable by human instruments - they speculate that it could be a defunct light-sail, space detritus fallen from a long-gone ship.

But Harvard's research team says they're not giving up hope that it's a sign of alien life: they "follow the maxim of Sherlock Holmes: When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth".

An artist's depiction of Oumuamua, an interstellar object that astronomers believe is a comet, not an asteroid. It's dark red, somewhere between 250m and one kilometre long, ten times longer than it is wide, and is spinning end-over-end through space at about 196,000 miles per hour.

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Astronomers originally thought the flattened, stadium-sized object was a comet or asteroid that came from our own solar system.

The article, written by Abraham Loeb, Professor and chair of astronomy, and Shmuel Bali, scientist, doctoral student at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for astrophysics, indicate that comparable "light sail" already exist on Earth.

"I am distinctly unconvinced and honestly think the study is rather flawed", Alan Jackson, fellow at the Centre for Planetary Sciences at the University of Toronto Scarborough, told CNN.

Yesterday, a number of astronomers criticized Loeb's conclusions, particularly the lack of direct evidence pointing to alien influence. The word Oumuamua in Hawaiian language means "a messenger reaching out from the distant past".

They add in the paper that the object could be a "lightsail of artifical origin". It is about 400 meters long and 40 wide, and has been tracked by several telescopes as the first detected object from another star system.

"A survey for lightsails as technosignatures [scientific evidence of past or present technology] in the solar system is warranted, irrespective of whether Oumuamua is one of them", the paper said.

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