As we here in America spend today deciding which knuckleheads will be our new guides down the path of impending doom, another little tidbit of news has been floating around, namely that Oumuamua, the cigar-shaped asteroid that flew through our solar system few months ago, may in fact be an alien probe. The object has been baffling scientists because it doesn’t conform to established information about asteroids or comets, looking and behaving quite oddly. But is it alien, or just something we haven’t seen before?
It’s been dubbed a comet, an asteroid, and a new class of interstellar object. Now, a paper from Harvard astronomers suggests one more possibility into the mysterious object nicknamed “Oumuamua”: Alien probe.
Researchers focused on whether solar radiation pressure could explain the unusual acceleration of “Oumuamua,” the first object entering the Earth’s solar system from interstellar space.
The paper said if solar radiation pressure is the reason “Oumuamua” is moving at high speeds, it represents “a new class of thin interstellar material” either made naturally or through artificial means.
The paper’s authors, which include Avi Loeb, chair of Harvard’s astronomy department, suggest the object could be a “lightsail” used to propel spacecraft with solar energy.
The other possibility? It comes from aliens. “A more exotic scenario is that ‘Oumuamua’ may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization,” reads the paper.
The paper was posted on Cornell’s University arXiv e-print archive, where research is submitted before it is formally published. The paper was also submitted to The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
“Oumuamua” has confounded researchers since it was first spotted last year by the Pan-STARRS1 telescope atop Mount Haleakala in Maui, Hawaii. The name “Oumuamua” is Hawaiian for “scout” or “messenger.”
The object puzzled astronomers because of its long shape and unusual acceleration. According to NASA, “Oumuamua” is up to a quarter-mile long and has reached speeds of 196,000 miles per hour.
In June, a study led by astronomer Marco Micheli of the European Space Agency found the object was a comet, noting “Oumuamua” was not slowing down as much as expected because of gravitational forces.
It does seem to be quite a leap of faith to think that this may be an extraterrestrial probe of some kind. The universe, as far as we know, is infinite, and it makes sense that we would have very little information regarding anything originating outside of out little speck of space. It looks funny, acts differently than other objects we’ve detected, but in all likelihood, this is just a form of space debris we don’t yet understand. If it had writing on it, if it were transmitting some sort of message or signal, or shown any evidence of being anything more than a cigar-shaped rock, I’d be more open-minded. But sadly, this is probably not alien made.