Published: Wed, November 07, 2018
Research | By Raquel Erickson

Mysterious cigar-shaped interstellar object may be alien spacecraft: Harvard researchers

Mysterious cigar-shaped interstellar object may be alien spacecraft: Harvard researchers

Experts have expressed scepticism about claims from two Harvard astronomers who say an interstellar object that passed through our solar system in late 2017 and early 2018 could have been part of an alien spacecraft.

The other co-author, Avi Loeb, chairman of Harvard's astronomy department, told NBC News humanity may never know more about the mysterious object, since it has travelled far away and isn't heading back.

The object's flat, elongated shape and reddish colour is from outside our solar system, according to the researchers. "Namely that it's a comet or asteroid from afar".

In a paper released online this week, Loeb and another Harvard researcher say an interstellar space rock that was discovered a year ago may be an alien craft. "It looked peculiar in nearly every other aspect". Well, that is, unless Oumuamua pulls a U-turn, in which case whether or not it has a light sail will be the least of our worries. The visitor, dubbed Oumuamua (pronounced "oh-MOO-ah-MOO-ah"), arrived from interstellar space, beyond the bubble-like region that demarcates the sun's domain. In the paper, Loeb and Bial say Oumuamua can not be attributed to any conventional explanations. "This could have been the result of cometary outgassing, but there is no evidence for a cometary tail around it. Moreover, comets change the period of their spin and no such change was detected for Oumuamua", Loeb said.

According to the new study compiled by Shmuel Bialy and Abraham Loeb, "The large variations in its apparent magnitude and the non-trivial periodicity of the lightcurve, suggest that 'Oumuamua is rotating in an excited spin state (tumbling motion), and has an extreme aspect ratio of at least 5: 1, an unprecedented value for previously known asteroids and comets in the Solar System".

"There is data on the orbit of this object for which there is no other explanation". "The approach I take to the subject is purely scientific and evidence-based". Others derided the paper as attention-seeking and damaging for the entire field.

'The thing you have to understand is: scientists are perfectly happy to publish an outlandish idea if it has even the tiniest sliver of a chance of not being wrong, ' she wrote on Twitter.

"It's possible it's space debris, it's possible it could be artificial", he said.

In December 2017 it was announced the astronomers were going to scan Oumuamua for signs of alien life.

"Any functional spacecraft would nearly certainly retract its solar sail once in interstellar space to prevent damage", Mr Jackson said.

They said it seemed to use the Sun's radiation as an energy source, and even if it was only a natural object, it was still unique.

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