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

An illustration of ‘Oumuamua the first object we’ve ever seen pass through our own solar system that has interstellar origins

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The scientists who conducted the study even suggested it "may be a fully operational probe sent internationally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization".

If the object is a lightsail, the paper adds it might have been floating in interstellar space when our solar system ran into it "like a ship bumping into a buoy on the surface of the ocean".

Since its discovery, scientists have found themselves puzzled due to the unusual features of the interstellar object.

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.

"This is the only other explanation we could come up with", said Avi Loeb, chair of Harvard's department of astronomy.

In a paper to be published November 12 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, the pair declare that the reddish, elongated, stadium-sized object "may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization", NBC News reported. In the paper, Loeb and Bial say Oumuamua can not be attributed to any conventional explanations.

"Like many researchers, I would very much like to believe that there is irrefutable proof of extraterrestrial life, but that is not the case", says Alan Fitzsimmons, astronomer at Queens University.

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But not everyone agrees that the "cigar-shaped" space object shows signs of extraterrestrial intelligence.

The technology, NBC news says, is still in its infancy on Earth, however. "Carl Sagan once said, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" and this paper is distinctly lacking in evidence nevermind extraordinary evidence".

The study, which was posted online earlier this month, suggests that Oumuamua's unusual "excess acceleration" could be artificial in nature, as it has been implied that it is not an active comet.

NASA believes the object is a reddish color after being bombarded with solar radiation and is made out of rock and metal.

The scientists sought to explain quirks in Oumuamua's movement by calculating whether it could be powered by the sun's radiation. In order for it to be effective, Oumuamua needs to be less than a millimeter in thickness, like a sail.

'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.

Of course, the pair aren't claiming that Oumuamua's definitely of alien origin. "Bailer-Jones" paper on possible origin sites for 'Oumuamua was accepted by the Astrophysical Journal in September.

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