Last year, a mysterious interstellar object known as Oumuamua passed through outer space. Now, two scientists at Harvard are hypothesizing that the celestial body may have been an alien probe as opposed to just a simple asteroid.
The object shot past our Sun last October, being observed as something literally from out of this world (i.e. not from our solar system). But its “flattened, elongated shape and the way it accelerated on its way through the solar system set it apart from conventional asteroids and comets,” reports NBC News.
That’s why the researchers raise the possibility that Oumuamua’s an alien craft in the new issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters. They say it “may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization.”
Of course, the pair aren’t claiming that Oumuamua’s definitely of alien origin. But the way the object sped through space leads the team to believe the otherworldly craft was propelled by some sort of “lightsail of artificial origin.”
Avi Loeb, Harvard’s astronomy department chairman and a co-author of the paper, cautions that it’s “impossible to guess the purpose behind Oumuamua without more data.” However, he adds that, if Oumuamua is indeed a lightsail, it may have run into our solar system “like a ship bumping into a buoy on the surface of the ocean.”
— Harvard ITC (@HarvardITC) November 5, 2018
But not everyone agrees that the “cigar-shaped” space object shows signs of extraterrestrial intelligence. In fact, some scientists seem to think that the simplest explanation for the object is probably the most plausible.
“It’s certainly ingenious to show that an object the size of Oumuamua might be sent by aliens,” says SETI Institute astronomer Seth Shostak. “One should not blindly accept this clever hypothesis when there is also a mundane (and a priori more likely) explanation for Oumuamua. Namely that it’s a comet or asteroid from afar.”
What’s your take on Oumuamua’s strange flyby? Do you think the interstellar object was actually an alien probe? Or was it merely some giant piece of space rock? Below, sound off in the comments section with your thoughts on the matter!