Scientists reveal mysterious 'Oumuamua' object could be an alien spacecraft

James Marshall
November 7, 2018

Scientists have been confounded by the interstellar object first spotted tumbling past the sun a year ago via telescopes on Maui.

At the time, scientists described the object as "less than a quarter-mile in diameter" with a red surface, and astronomers said that it was moving "remarkably fast".

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 objective.

In fact, in their article, published this week in the The Astrophysical Journal Letters, they claim the object "may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization".

Lightsails are a proposed method of spacecraft propulsion which uses radiation pressure exerted from sunlight or large mirrors. According to the study, "this would account for the various anomalies of 'Oumuamua, such as the unusual geometry inferred from its lightcurve, its low thermal emission, suggesting high reflectivity, and its deviation from a Keplerian orbit without any sign of a cometary tail or spin-up torques". "If Oumuamua is a lightsail", he added, "one possibility is that it was floating in interstellar space when our solar system ran into it, "like a ship bumping into a buoy on the surface of the ocean". One such project, Breakthrough Starshot, is aiming to send hundreds of tiny, lightsail-operated probes to a nearby solar system next year.

But Alan Jackson, a fellow at the Centre for Planetary Sciences at the University of Toronto Scarborough, told CNN the study was "distinctly lacking in evidence, never mind extraordinary evidence" and that the spectral data suggested the object was an asteroid or comet. "The approach I take to the subject is purely scientific and evidence-based".

"But one should not blindly accept this clever hypothesis when there is also a mundane explanation for Oumuamua - namely that it's a comet or asteroid from afar".

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

Oumuamua has now left the solar system and is no longer visible even with telescopes.

A massive flattened boulder-like object traveling through space with "peculiar acceleration" could be an alien craft, according to a new study.

A certain "discrepancy" in the object's movement "is readily solved if 'Oumuamua does not follow a random trajectory but is rather a targeted probe", they write.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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