Published: Fri, November 09, 2018
Science | By

Did We Just Witness the Passing of an Alien Space Probe?

Did We Just Witness the Passing of an Alien Space Probe?

Oumuamua, Hawaiian for "messenger" or "scout", was first viewed by telescopes in October 2017.

The researchers noted in a pre-print of the article that it was an "exotic scenario", but that "Oumuamua may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilisation".

Their theory of the "exotic" by their own admission, is based on the speed of Oumuamua, more important than expected for a vehicle of this shape. "Considering an artificial origin, one possibility is that 'Oumuamua is a light sail, floating in interstellar space as a debris from an advanced technological equipment". Second, it seemed to be getting faster-and not through the gravitational pull of other objects, as researchers would expect.The mystery prompted Shmuel Bialy, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and Avi Loeb, another Harvard astronomer, to attempt to figure out what was going on with 'Oumuamua.

"It is impossible to guess the goal behind Oumuamua without more data", Avi Loeb, chairman of Harvard's astronomy department and a co-author of the paper, told NBC News MACH in an email.

"Light-sails with similar dimensions have been designed and constructed by our own civilization, including the IKAROS project and the Starshot Initiative". "The fact that I'm involved in a project that uses the light sail allowed me, or encouraged me, to think about it", he told the Verge.Bialy, meanwhile, has a different perspective. "It has already been shown that its observed characteristics are consistent with a comet-like body ejected from another star system". When took in comparison with the regular asteroids and comets, it appeared to be very odd. But comets have clouds of gas surrounding them, and 'Oumuamua seemed to have none.

Multiple telescopes focused on the object for three nights to determine what it was before it moved out of sight. But so far, no one's put forward a better explanation for what the interstellar object could be.

"It is exciting to live at a time when we have the scientific technology to search for evidence of alien civilizations", Loeb wrote in an email.

"Like most scientists, I would love there to be convincing evidence of alien life, but this isn't it", said Alan Fitzsimmons, an astrophysicist at Queens University, Belfast.

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