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

New work by researchers at the Harvard Smithsonian center for astrophysics suggests the possibility that the elongated dark-red object, whose length is 10 times greater than the width, and the speed exceeds 315 thousand km/h, may have "artificial origin".

"It's the first object to come from interstellar space, it's nothing we have seen before", Loeb said. Given its high speed and its unusual trajectory, the reddish, stadium-sized whatever-it-is had clearly come from outside our solar system. Observers dismissed the acceleration as the result of a release of gas from within the rock, but astronomers Shmuel Bialy and Abraham Loeb are the whole matter, reasoning that if Oumuamua had merely been a comet undergoing outgassing, the release would have set the object to spinning.

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 civilization". The name "Oumuamua" is Hawaiian for "scout" or "messenger".

Oumuamua, the first interstellar object known to enter our solar system, accelerated faster away from the Sun than expected, hence the notion that some kind of artificial sail that runs on sunlight - known as a light sail - may have helped push it through space.

An artist's depiction of Oumuamua, an interstellar object that astronomers believe is a comet, not an asteroid.

"I am distinctly unconvinced and honestly think the study is rather flawed", Alan Jackson, fellow at the Centre for Planetary Sciences at the University of Toronto Scarborough, told CNN.

Another scientist, also studying Oumuamua - and who identified four dwarf stars that could be Oumuamua's point of origin - says the object moved too haphazardly to collect any valuable information, even if it was a probe. It is about 400 meters long and 40 wide, and has been tracked by several telescopes as the first detected object from another star system.

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

They add in the paper that the object could be a "lightsail of artifical origin".

The other possibility? It comes from aliens. Studies re-examining the light signals more carefully suggest that Oumuamua could be very elongated cigar-shaped to pancake-shaped."What is clear is that it can't have a shape that is almost spherical - like normal rocks we know", he said.Loeb said the mystery of Oumuamua's origin remains.

  • Essie Rivera