Scientists Believe Mysterious, Oddly Shaped Space Object Could Be 'Alien Probe'

  • Scientists Believe Mysterious, Oddly Shaped Space Object Could Be 'Alien Probe'

Scientists Believe Mysterious, Oddly Shaped Space Object Could Be 'Alien Probe'

They say it "may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization". Nicknamed "Oumuamua", the object has an exceptionally odd shape that distinguishes it from most asteroids and comets: It's a stadium-sized mass with a flat, elongated body that is reddish in color.

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

The theory is based on the object's "excess acceleration", or its unexpected boost in speed as it traveled through and ultimately out of our solar system in January 2018.

New research from Harvard astronomers claims the only explanation for a mysterious object that flew close to the sun a year ago is an alien spacecraft, but their bold claim has drawn criticism from a number of other astronomers.

The Harvard paper will be published November 12 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, NBC News reports.

"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", wrote the paper's authors, suggesting that the object could be propelled by solar radiation.

They add in the paper that the object could be a "lightsail of artifical origin".

The researchers are not saying outright that Oumuamua is a sign of extraterrestrial life. Given the name "Oumuamua" - which means messenger from afar arriving first, or scout, in Hawaiian - the object is believed to be the first interstellar visitor to our solar system. One such project, Breakthrough Starshot, is aiming to send hundreds of tiny, lightsail-operated probes to a nearby solar system next year.

It's also entirely possible - perhaps more possible - that the object isn't part of a far-flung alien race's attempts to investigate the (other) occupants of the Milky Way.

"It is going extremely fast and on such a trajectory that we can say with confidence that this object is on its way out of the solar system and not coming back", Mr Farnocchia said shortly after its discovery.

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.

Yesterday, a number of astronomers criticized Loeb's conclusions, particularly the lack of direct evidence pointing to alien influence.

"They have not come out and flatly said this is an alien spacecraft". The object has left our solar system and is no longer visible even with telescopes.