Interstellar asteroid could be 'alien' mission searching for life

Thursday, 08 Nov, 2018

The truth is out there regarding the origins of a mysterious cigar-shaped object seen tumbling through the solar system previous year, according to researchers from Harvard University who argue it may have been an alien spacecraft sent to investigate Earth.

However, the team follows up with an even more wild theory, saying "a more exotic scenario is that Oumuamua may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization".

Scientists first discovered the mysterious interstellar object now known as "Oumuamua" in late 2017 when it was spotted by thePan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawaii.

Since scientists are not able to explain the unusual features of a celestial body and its origin, giving it finally a new class of "interstellar objects".

A soon to be released paper written by researchers Shmuel Bialy and Abraham Loeb from the Havard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics points to the change in speed as Oumuamua passed and left our solar system - odd behaviour for a rock.

However, it seems unlikely that we'll ever know if Oumuamua did, in fact, have an artificial light sail.

"Light sail of the same size were designed and built our own civilization, including the IKAROS project and Starshot". A light sail is an advanced, but still theoretical, form of spacecraft propulsion that would use radiation pressure from a star to push an object along, like wind on a sailboat's sail.

The light-sail Loeb thinks may power Oumuamua is not unlike technology being developed now here on Earth.

"Two very capable, very bright astronomers, from a very credible organization, Harvard, have come out with the notion that Oumuamua could be alien in origin", Diamond said.

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?" SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, tried to detect signals from the object, but found nothing. "Carl Sagan once said, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" and this paper is distinctly lacking in evidence nevermind extraordinary evidence". But Oumuamua didn't show typical signs of a comet, like a tail of dust and gas.

In a letter published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters on 12 November, the researchers add that Oumuamua could be a spacecraft pushed along by light falling on its surface.

Some are not so sure the cigar-shaped 'Oumuamua is a solar sail, however.

Astronomers were baffled, eventually settling on the term "interstellar object", the Washington Post reported.

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).