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'Oumuamua may be an extraterrestrial solar sail

Posted on Saturday, 3 November, 2018 | Comment icon 131 comments

Could 'Oumuamua be a relic from an alien civilization ? Image Credit: ESO / M. Kornmesser
Harvard astronomers have suggested that the first known interstellar visitor could be an alien probe.
The 400-meter-long object, which flew past our planet back in October 2017, became the focus of much debate and intrigue after it was found to have come from a distant solar system.

Now according to two scientists from Harvard University, 'Oumuamua, far from being a mere asteroid or comet, might actually be a sophisticated extraterrestrial spacecraft equipped with a solar sail which uses radiation pressure to generate propulsion.

Observations of the object as it passed the Sun had indicated no evidence of outgassing - suggesting that it was an asteroid rather than a comet - however as it began to leave the solar system it suddenly exhibited an unexpected burst of speed indicative of material being vented due to solar heating.

To add to this apparant contradiction, if outgassing had been responsible for accelerating the object, it would have also had a significant effect on its spin - something that was not actually observed.

So could this mysterious interstellar visitor really have been built by an alien civilization ?

According to co-author Prof. Abraham Loeb, 'Oumuamua may not necessarily be an active spacecraft - it could be a derelict probe drifting through space under the influence of gravity and stellar radiation.

"This opportunity establishes a potential foundation for a new frontier of space archaeology, namely the study of relics from past civilizations in space," he wrote.

"Finding evidence for space junk of artificial origin would provide an affirmative answer to the age-old question 'Are we alone?'. This would have a dramatic impact on our culture and add a new cosmic perspective to the significance of human activity."

Source: | Comments (131)

Tags: Oumuamua, Asteroid

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #122 Posted by qxcontinuum on 7 November, 2018, 2:49
looks to me that scientists are now considered this possibility. This is the topic about I believe :-)
Comment icon #123 Posted by Mx449 on 7 November, 2018, 3:07
I hear people talking about Voyager in 20,000 years but I'm yet to hear anyone mention the risks of it being destroyed by other space debris. Is that not worth worrying about? Just curious as I hope it lasts forever but I feel as though a collision is inevitable at some point.
Comment icon #124 Posted by stereologist on 7 November, 2018, 12:12
The possibility o a collision is there, but the densest debris is around our planet. The probe was sent to avoid the rings of Saturn and now it i in interstellar space where collisions tend to be with molecules.
Comment icon #125 Posted by Mx449 on 7 November, 2018, 17:26
Excuse my ignorance. I'm fascinated by this stuff but know very little. What do you mean collisions tend to be with molecules. When we look up into space, we see millions of stars which Voyager has already traveled through. Voyager will now be going into area's that we aren't able to see to know what is actually there. Are you basically saying that the further out you go, the emptier space gets as far as comets, planets, and other forms of dust or "rocks?" Is it like that only until it reaches another star system? Could space be compared to living in a rural area such as the Midwest in the US... [More]
Comment icon #126 Posted by toast on 7 November, 2018, 17:48
The number of stars which Voyager has already traveled through is: zero.
Comment icon #127 Posted by stereologist on 7 November, 2018, 18:37
The Voyagers are still closes to our Sun. They have just passed through the heliopause which is where the solar wind stops. Outside of that is the interstellar zone. The heliopause is around 200AU out. That's small compared to a light year which is 63,000 plus AU. An AU is the distance form the Sun to the Earth. It will be a long time before either Voyager craft is as far away as a star. Most of space is filled with molecules - atoms joined together. Hydrogen pairs up to make H2. Nitrogen pairs up as N2. Oxygen as O2. Helium does not like to do anything but be on its own. It's a Nobel gas and... [More]
Comment icon #128 Posted by L.A.T.1961 on 7 November, 2018, 18:54
Essentially yes. Individual star systems contain much more material than the interstellar medium that surrounds them. A lot of solar system material is located in a disc around the sun. Generally this is where planets form and many of the bigger pieces of the solar system are found. It is also where a lot of the available telescope time is used to explore our solar system as it generates more results. This is one reason'Oumuamua was not seen earlier, and similar objects may have previously slipped through undetected, as it approached our solar system from well above the plane of the disc. ... [More]
Comment icon #129 Posted by toast on 7 November, 2018, 19:02
Very well explained.
Comment icon #130 Posted by seanjo on 9 November, 2018, 17:54
Voyager hasn't traveled to any other stars, it's only just leaving the Sun's influence and won't reach another solar system for many thousands of years.
Comment icon #131 Posted by Amerix on 15 November, 2018, 13:45
What's funny about stories like this is, sources like SecureTeam10 and other like him who push non stop rubbish stories about UFO's and aliens, suddenly jump on this story. So let me get this straight, you just got done telling people you think there are fleets and mother ships next to the sun, and UFO's chasing planes and flying around the planet, but you also think aliens need to probe us with an uncontrollable hunk of stone zooming through our solar system? Wouldn't that be counter productive for the aliens? I mean, you tell people they are sucking energy out of the sun to fuel their shi... [More]

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