Interstellar asteroid could be 'alien' mission searching for life

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

The scientists sought to explain quirks in Oumuamua's movement by calculating whether it could be powered by the sun's radiation.

"A group of Harvard researchers say they believe the mysterious, elongated space-faring object, nicknamed "'Oumuamua", could be an "alien spacecraft" or alien probe sent to spy on Earth. The metal-rich object was found to be about 750 feet by 115 feet and reddish in colour.

Oumuamua has left the solar system and is no longer visible, the news outlet noted. "Namely that it's a comet or asteroid from afar". Other scientists deemed it a comet, despite the lack of a traditional tail. It was scanned for radio waves, but none were detected.

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 change in course and speed was so pronounced they concluded it "might be a lightsail of artificial origin".

Claiming the vessel may be made by aliens, Dr Bialy told The Times: 'Even if there's a small chance it's so interesting that we can't ignore it'.

In a paper to be published November 12 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, the pair declare that the reddish, elongated, stadium-sized object "may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization", NBC News reported.

The study further states: "Considering an artificial origin, one possibility is that 'Oumuamua is a lightsail, floating in interstellar space as a debris from an advanced technological equipment".

"I've been saying for years that the only thing that could happen that would make this more insane and I don't think anybody would blink, is if all of a sudden an alien spacecraft appeared above Earth", he added. That and the object's unusual movements suggest it could have a source of power beyond gravitational pulls, they said.

According to Harvard scientists, we may not be alone in our solar system. So the Harvard authors' "exotic" guesses are just as good as anyone's at this point.

"A survey for lightsails as technosignatures [scientific evidence of past or present technology] in the solar system is warranted, irrespective of whether Oumuamua is one of them", the paper said.

But Loeb called the conjecture "purely scientific and evidence-based", adding, "I follow the maxim of Sherlock Holmes: When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth".

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