New info about “Alien”probe surfaces
by Colleen Burns
This year scientists took a break from debating the necessary qualifications Pluto must need to be a planet and gave their attention to a mysterious interstellar object that recently visited our solar system. In fact, just last week Harvard astronomers theorized that this cigar-shaped object could be an alien spacecraft or probe of some kind.
Discovered in October of 2017 in Hawaii, the foreign object puzzled many scientists with its unknown creation and strange features. The mysterious object soon took the name, ‘Oumuamua, which means “a messenger that reaches out from the distant past” in Hawaiian. This name is very fitting as ‘Oumuamua is actually the first foreign object to enter our solar system (at least that scientists know of).
At first, astronomers believed the object to be a comet or an asteroid but again the abnormal features proved those theories wrong. The confusing features include the dark red object’s dimensions and speed. ‘Oumuamua has a rather elongated shape with a length that is 10 times longer than its width. This abnormal shape rules out classification of an asteroid Additionally, ‘Oumuamua travels at speeds of 196,000mph with a surprising increase in speed as it traveled through and out of our solar system. While comets tend to speed up due to the sun melting its surface and releasing gas, the object is missing the atmosphere and dust that surrounds comets when they melt known as a coma.
According to a CNN repot, ‘Oumuamua is now considered to be in “a new class of interstellar objects.” Since much of space is still undiscovered and unexplored, new theories have been developed about the origin and purpose of the elusive ‘Oumuamua…including artificial or alien origin. That’s right! Harvard astronomers have published a paper in the Astrophysical Journal Letters about how this object could have been sent to our solar system from another civilization.
Written by professor and chair of astronomy Abraham Loeb and postdoctoral scholar Shmuel Bialy at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the paper proposes that ‘Oumuamua could be a light sail. According to CNN, the paper’s authors explain that the light sail could be propelled by solar radiation and “floating in interstellar space as a debris from an advanced technological equipment.” They speculate that the light sail is no longer functional hence ‘Oumuamua’s unusual high speed and trajectory.
Loeb and Shmuel argue, “Light-sails with similar dimensions have been designed and constructed by our own civilization, including the IKAROS project and the Starshot Initiative. The light-sail technology might be abundantly used for transportation of cargos between planets or between stars.” If ‘Oumuamua is indeed a light sail from an alien civilization, then some of its mysteries would be explained. For example, its “unusual geometry inferred from its light-curve, its low thermal emission, suggesting high reflectivity, and its deviation from a Keplerian orbit without any sign of a cometary tail or spin-up torques” would make more sense according to the paper.
While all of this theorization about potential alien civilization is exciting, Loeb admits in an email to CNN, “The evidence about ‘Oumuamua is not conclusive but interesting. I will be truly excited once we have conclusive evidence.” Loeb is not the only astronomer to point out the non-conclusive data. A fellow at the Centre for Planetary Sciences at the University of Toronto Scarborough, Alan Jackson is bothered by the lack of evidence. According to a CNN article, Jackson said, “I am distinctly unconvinced and honestly think the study is rather flawed.” In fact, Jackson even published a paper that proposes a different theory: ‘Oumuamua could have come from a binary star system. In his paper, he elaborates on a few flaws related to what spectral data would look like from a solar sail, how a solar sail would operate once in interstellar space, the type of spin that a solar sail would have, and the size of a solar sail.
While the true origin of ‘Oumuamua is yet to be discovered, the idea of other life in space is intriguing. Just two years ago, NASA astronomers concluded that there are at least 10 times more existing galaxies than the previously estimated 200 billion galaxies. The idea of space is often too complex to even conceptualize, yet according to a 2017 Glocalities survey, 47% of 26,000 respondents from 24 countries believe in “the existence of intelligent alien civilizations in the universe” and 61% believe in “some form of life on other planets.” While there is a significant difference between evidence and belief, perhaps alien believers will be more inclined to ask the unthinkable and discover the unknown. Loeb and Abraham may not have the most full-proof theory, but in a world of 200 billion galaxies someone has to push limits and consider these possibilities.