New Harvard Study Suggests 'Oumuamua Is of Alien Origin

Monday, 05 November 2018 - 1:35PM
Astronomy
Space
Alien Life
Monday, 05 November 2018 - 1:35PM
New Harvard Study Suggests 'Oumuamua Is of Alien Origin
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Image adapted from original by ESO/M. Kornmesser
Just when we thought the question was settled for good, here we are again: discussing whether the tumbling, cigar-shaped object known as 'Oumuamua that came crashing through our solar system late last year is an alien spacecraft. This time, it's not just wild speculation, though--the claim comes from a recent study by the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and has some math to back it up.

On its face, the study is trying to reconcile 'Oumuamua's pattern of acceleration, which matches that of a comet, to other observations that suggest it's not an active comet. Instead of the normal mechanic used by comets to accelerate (called "outgassing"), the authors suggest solar radiation pressure could explain 'Oumuamua's behavior. While their mathematical models fit the observed data, their measurements of 'Oumuamua's peculiar dimensions and properties apparently led them to suggest there was another potential explanation: 'Oumuamua may not have been an asteroid at all. Instead, it may have been the wreckage left over from an alien lightsail. According to the study:

"Considering an artificial origin, one possibility is that 'Oumuamua is a lightsail, floating in interstellar space as a debris from an advanced technological equipment. Lightsails with similar dimensions have been designed and constructed by our own civilization, including the IKAROS project and the Starshot Initiative. The lightsail technology might be abundantly used for transportation of cargos between planets or between stars."

Another alternative? It was an actual alien spacecraft sent to observe Earth. In the words of the authors: "...a more exotic scenario is that 'Oumuamua may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization." How did they come to that conclusion? Well, the researchers estimated how many asteroids like 'Oumuamua should be randomly zooming around interstellar space, based on the PAN-STARRS1 survey. According to the estimate, we should be seeing a lot of objects like 'Oumuamua, but we don't. According to the authors, "This discrepancy is readily solved if 'Oumuamua does not follow a random trajectory but is rather a targeted probe."

So go and put those tin foil hats back on.



Image adapted from original by ESO/M. Kornmesser CC BY 4.0
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