Friday, 16 November, 2018

Weird traveling space boulder could be alien ship, say scientists

An illustration of ‘Oumuamua the first object we’ve ever seen pass through our own solar system that has interstellar origins Interstellar asteroid could be 'alien' mission searching for life
Cary Marshall | 07 November, 2018, 09:57

Nobody knows what Oumuamua is or where it came from, and it's too late to find out for sure.

Oumuamua was first spotted in Hawaii in October past year and is believed to measure 1,312ft (400m).

Two Harvard researchers are raising the possibility that a mysterious space object seen tumbling past the sun a year ago - known as Oumuamua - is an alien spacecraft.

"This unusual object ... is less than [400 metres] in diameter and is moving remarkably fast", NASA said at the time. It's also possible Oumuamua was just created to wander through space, collecting information, and our solar system just happened to be in its way - its operators weren't necessarily looking to pry into the lives of humans. "Namely that it's a comet or asteroid from afar".

Just in case, astronomers pointed powerful radio telescopes at the object to scan for radio transmissions. Other scientists deemed it a comet, despite the lack of a traditional tail.

But since Oumuamua's discovery, scientists have continued to wonder whether it could have originated from some intelligent life-form.

Shmuel Bialy and Abraham Loeb, two astronomers from the Harvard Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, suggested the cigar-shaped object - given the Hawaiian name 'Oumuamua, which NASA notes "means a messenger from afar arriving first" - could have been a discarded light sail of extra-terrestrial origin, perhaps sent here on objective. The team termed the possible propulsion system a "lightsail of artificial origin".

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A certain "discrepancy" in the object's movement "is readily solved if 'Oumuamua does not follow a random trajectory but is rather a targeted probe", they write.

If Oumuamua is a lightsail floating in interstellar space, it could have been ejected from a planetary system as "space debris" from equipment that is no longer operational.

The idea that the object could have been part of some massive alien solar-powered technology may seem far-fetched, but the authors suggest an even more "exotic" explanation: "that Oumuamua may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilisation".

Although it's "extremely thin", the researchers said the object could survive interstellar travel over galactic distances and withstand collisions with gas and dust grains.

Despite the Harvard researchers' work, most scientists, NBC News says, are urging caution in assuming there's any other civilization beyond Earth's atmosphere - and that it's actively seeking us out.

"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.

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