Mysterious interstellar object floating in space might be alien, say Harvard researchers

This diagram shows the orbit of the interstellar object ‘Oumuamua as it passes through the Solar System. It shows the predicted path of ‘Oumuamua and the new course taking the new measured velocity of the object into account. ‘Oumuamua passed the

A scientific paper led by two researchers at Harvard University made a splash this week by claiming that a cigar-shaped rock zooming through our solar system may have been sent by aliens.

First spotted by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawaii in October 2017, the odd, fast-moving object has puzzled astronomers since its discovery.

ʻOumuamua, the interstallar object with a Hawaiian name is drawing attention again, this time for a new theory about its origins. But now Harvard scientists say Oumuamua may literally be an alien spacecraft sent from another galaxy to spy on us, reports NBC News.

"One possibility is that Oumuamua is a lightsail, floating in interstellar space as a debris from an advanced technological equipment", the paper says.

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. "Lightsails with similar dimensions have been designed and constructed by our own civilization, including the IKAROS project and the Starshot Initiative". "Technology the light sails can be used to transport cargo between planets or between the stars", the researchers note. The study suggests that if 'Oumuamua rotates in its highest rotational energy state, "it should be extremely oblate (pancake-like)".

Astronomers believe an unusual object that entered the solar system last October might be an alien probe.




Since scientists could not explain its unusual shape and the exact origin, so at first called it a comet, and then an asteroid before giving it a title: a new class of "interstellar objects".

Comets, in particular, are known to speed-up due to a process known as "outgassing", in which the sun heats up the surface of the icy comet, releasing melted gas. But Oumuamua wasn't "coma", of the atmosphere and dust that surround the comet, when they melt.

The Harvard scientists speculated that solar radiation hitting a solar sail could explain why the mysterious object started moving faster.

Their paper was accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal Letters and will appear on November 12.

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".

Governments do have secret plans in place for the possibility of an alien landing, but they'd fall apart instantly if it ever actually happened, an astronomer has told LBC.

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