Mysterious interstellar object could be ‘lightsail’ sent from another civilization

ESO  M. Kornmesser

ESO M. Kornmesser

Its unusual origin story wasn't the only thing that set Oumuamua apart from other comets and asteroids - it was also odd in shape; highly elongated, like a cosmic cigar.

The Harvard paper will be published November 12 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, NBC News reports.

In a new scientific paper, Shmuel Bialy and Abraham Loeb of Harvard University in the United States will say cigar-shaped "Oumuamua" could be a spaceship.

"It is impossible to guess the objective behind Oumuamua without more data", Avi Loeb, chairman of Harvard's astronomy department and a co-author of the paper, told NBC News in an email. In fact, some scientists seem to think that the simplest explanation for the object is probably the most plausible.

"Its origin could be either natural (in the interstellar medium or proto-planetary disks) or artificial (as a probe sent for a reconnaissance mission into the inner region of the solar system)". In the paper, Loeb and Bial say Oumuamua can not be attributed to any conventional explanations.

An alien civilisation sent a spaceship to investigate Earth and we mistook it for an asteroid, astronomers from one of the world's top universities have suggested. SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, tried to detect signals from the object, but found nothing.

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"And here's a story fromNBC News saying an alien spacecraft may be above Earth and no one's noticing it", Stu laughed.

Jackson published a paper in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society in March that suggests that 'Oumuamua came from a binary star system, or a system with two stars.

"Currently, there is an unexplained phenomena, namely, the excess acceleration of Oumuamua, which we show may be explained by the force of radiation pressure from the sun", co-author and Harvard astrophysicist Shmuel Bialy told AFP via email Tuesday. Even the spinning motion of a damaged solar sail would be far more strongly influenced by the radiation forces than seen, he explained.

Solar sails also can't change course after being launched, so if 'Oumuamua was truly a solar sail, it would be traceable back to its origin.

While their mathematical models fit the observed data, their measurements of 'Oumuamua's peculiar dimensions and properties apparently led them to suggest there was another potential explanation: 'Oumuamua may not have been an asteroid at all. "You have to understand that for scientists, the craziest idea is always publishable, as long as there is a tiny chance that it is not wrong", she wrote on Twitter. However, he adds that, if Oumuamua is indeed a lightsail, it may have run into our solar system "like a ship bumping into a buoy on the surface of the ocean". "Bailer-Jones" paper on possible origin sites for 'Oumuamua was accepted by the Astrophysical Journal in September.

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