'Oumuamua: Comet or Alien Probe?

An illustration of ‘Oumuamua the first object we’ve ever seen pass through our own solar system that has interstellar origins

"But we should examine anything that enters the solar system from interstellar space in order to infer the true nature of Oumuamua or other objects of its mysterious population".

A Hawaiian telescope first spotted "Oumuamua", meaning "a messenger from afar, arriving first" in Hawaiian, in October 2017.

According to Harvard scientists, we may not be alone in our solar system.

Harvard researchers have now said it "may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth's vicinity by an alien civilisation".

Shmuel Bialy and Abraham Loeb, two astronomers from the Harvard Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, suggested the cigar-shaped object - given the Hawaiian name 'Oumuamua, which NASA notes "means a messenger from afar arriving first" - could have been a discarded light sail of extra-terrestrial origin, perhaps sent here on goal.

The scientists are not claiming with certainty that Oumamua was definitely of alien origin (they admit in their paper that scenario is "exotic"), but the shape was determined to have come from outside our solar system.

When the object - known as Oumuamua - flew past the sun, astronomers rushed to find out more about it and reviewed data discovering that the object gained speed instead of slowing down.

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. Not everyone, however, is convinced of its argument.

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?" "One should not blindly accept this clever hypothesis when there is also a mundane (and a priori more likely) explanation for Oumuamua". Not only is it the first-ever interstellar asteroid or comet detected by astronomers while passing through the solar system, its shape is odd, its acceleration is unexpected, and a cometary tail - the signature trail of particles seen behind shooting stars - is conspicuous in its absence. "The approach I take to the subject is purely scientific and evidence-based".

The research paper said: "Considering an artificial origin, one possibility is that Oumuamua is a lightsail, floating in interstellar space as a debris from an advanced technological equipment". The object has left our solar system and is no longer visible even with telescopes. Loeb is saying that the Oumuamua doesn't exhibit the type of characteristics seen in other comets and asteroids.

"Any functional spacecraft would nearly certainly retract its solar sail once in interstellar space to prevent damage", Mr Jackson said.

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