Cigar-shaped object could be alien spacecraft, Harvard researchers claim

08 November, 2018, 00:02 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • An illustration of ‘Oumuamua the first object we’ve ever seen pass through our own solar system that has interstellar origins

A mysterious cigar-shaped object spotted tumbling through our solar system a year ago may have been an alien spacecraft sent to investigate Earth, astronomers from Harvard University have suggested.

Oumuamua was first spotted in Hawaii in October previous year and is believed to measure 1,312ft (400m). The shape was dark red, roughly oval, and flat, estimated to be a quarter-mile long.

Harvard researchers have now said it "may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth's vicinity by an alien civilisation".

Now, a new paper by researchers at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics raises the possibility that the elongated dark-red object, which is 10 times as long as it is wide and traveling at speeds of 196,000 miles per hour, might have an "artificial origin".

Using a mathematical analysis of the way the object sped up as it shot past the sun, the researchers argue that Oumuamua could be a spacecraft pushed through space by light falling on its surface - a kind of "lightsail of artificial origin", NBC News reported.

That's why the researchers raise the possibility that Oumuamua's an alien craft in the new issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters. Not everyone, however, is convinced of its argument. "Carl Sagan once said, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" and this paper is distinctly lacking in evidence, nevermind extraordinary evidence".


Yesterday, a number of astronomers criticized Loeb's conclusions, particularly the lack of direct evidence pointing to alien influence.

"But one should not blindly accept this clever hypothesis when there is also a mundane explanation for Oumuamua - namely that it's a comet or asteroid from afar". Not only is it the first-ever interstellar asteroid or comet detected by astronomers while passing through the solar system, its shape is unusual, its acceleration is unexpected, and a cometary tail - the signature trail of particles seen behind shooting stars - is conspicuous in its absence.

"Considering an artificial origin, one possibility is that Oumuamua is a lightsail, floating in interstellar space as a debris from an advanced technological equipment".

He raised questions in particular about the object's tumbling motion. Loeb is saying that the Oumuamua doesn't exhibit the type of characteristics seen in other comets and asteroids. It is expected to shoot past Saturn and leave the solar system in early 2019, according to the agency.

"Two very capable, very bright astronomers, from a very credible organization, Harvard, have come out with the notion that Oumuamua could be alien in origin", Diamond said.

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