Oumuamua May Have Been an Alien Spaceship, Astronomers Say


Scientists first called the object an asteroid, then later deemed it a mildly active comet. 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.

Their theory - and this is really, really cool - is that it might be a light sail, powered by solar radiation and of an "artificial origin" (i.e. built by aliens). Loeb has published four books and more than 700 papers on topics like black holes, the future of the universe, the search for extraterrestrial life and the first stars.

This new paper suggests that it might be speeding up because it's equipped with what is known as a "light sail".

"Light-sails with similar dimensions have been designed and constructed by our own civilization, including the IKAROS project and the Starshot Initiative. Technology light sails may be used to transport cargo between planets or between the stars".

In operation, the pair theorizes that the velocity of the object and its unusual trajectory can be a result of the fact that it is no longer working. Not only is it the first-ever interstellar asteroid or comet detected by astronomers while passing through the solar system, its shape is odd, its acceleration is unexpected, and a cometary tail - the signature trail of particles seen behind shooting stars - is conspicuous in its absence. Its flattened, elongated shape and the way it accelerated on its way through the Solar system, distinguished him from ordinary asteroids and comets.

Comets, in particular, are known to speed up due to "outgassing", a process in which the sun heats the surface of the icy comet, releasing melted gas.

There are less "exotic" explanations for Oumuamua that are still brain-meltingly awesome.

Multiple telescopes focused on the object for three nights to determine what it was before it moved out of sight.

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Coryn Bailer-Jones, an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, said: "In science, we must ask ourselves 'Where is the evidence?"

The researchers did not say directly that the aliens sent Omwamwi.

Oumuamua is interesting for a number of reasons.

"Not 'where is the lack of evidence so that I can fit in any hypothesis that I like?"

It was initially classified as a comet but, according to the Express, Shmuel Bialy and Abraham Loeb disagree, saying that it could have been a spacecraft which relies on radiation as a source of power sent to find other signs of galaxies.

"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. Oumuamua exited our star system late past year, and hasn't made a U-turn to come back and check on Earth's inhabitants.

"Recent observational and theoretical studies imply that 'Oumuamua is not an active comet", the researchers said in a draft version of their study.