Harvard researchers: Interstellar object could have been an alien probe

An artist's illustration of a UFO in a forest

The first interstellar immigrant "Oumuamua" discovered in our solar system may have been an alien probe sent to investigate Earth, and not a comet as previously thought, a new study by Harvard scientists has suggested.

The object known formally as 1I/2017 U1 was spotted October 19, 2017 by Robert Weryk of the Institute for Astronomy using the Pan-STARRS1 telescope system on Mount Haleakala in Maui, Hawaii.

The paper was written by Abraham Loeb, professor and chair of astronomy, and Shmuel Bialy, a postdoctoral scholar, at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The measurements of its trajectory made it clear that it was coming from outside of our solar system.

The interstellar object 'Oumuamua could be a "light-sail" created by an alien civilization. "It's already a known phenomenon that when radiation hits an object, it can cause acceleration", says Bialy.

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".


"This would account for the various anomalies of 'Oumuamua, such as the unusual geometry inferred from its light-curve, 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". Loeb says that astronomers should be scanning the sky for other interstellar objects, including possible light-sails. "Like many researchers, I would very much like to believe that there is irrefutable proof of extraterrestrial life, but that is not the case", says Alan Fitzsimmons, astronomer at Queens University.

This development also led notable American astrophysicist Katherine Mack to remark that "scientists are perfectly happy to publish an outlandish idea if it has even the tiniest *sliver* of a chance of not being wrong".

"But until every other possibility has been exhausted dozen times over, even the authors probably don't believe it, " she cautioned.

While two scientists speculate that the mysterious space rock Oumuamua which cruises across our solar system may be some kind of alien craft, at least one astronomer stepped forward to debunk their claim.

"It is impossible to guess the goal behind Oumuamua without more data", Loeb was quoted as saying.

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