Published: Wed, November 07, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Scientists push back against Harvard 'alien spacecraft' theory

Scientists push back against Harvard 'alien spacecraft' theory

The object was discovered previous year with the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope atop Haleakalā on Maui and was given the Hawaiian name ʻOumuamua, meaning 'a messenger from afar arriving first'.

"News reports that a team of scientists studying the odd, "reddish, stadium-sized" mass that 'tumbled past the sun" in late 2017 say they believe the item could be extraterrestrial in nature, and may not be natural.

Oumuamua, which translates as "distant messenger from the past" in Hawaiian, can reach speeds of up to 196,000mph.

Shmuel Bialy and Abraham Loeb, two astronomers from the Harvard Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, suggested the cigar-shaped object - given the Hawaiian name 'Oumuamua, which NASA notes "means a messenger from afar arriving first" - could have been a discarded light sail of extra-terrestrial origin, perhaps sent here on goal. In fact, in their article, published this week in the The Astrophysical Journal Letters, they claim the object "may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization".

Mr Loeb is an adviser to Breakthrough Starshot, an initiative that plans to send a fleet of tiny laser-powered lightsail craft to the nearest star system.

It "may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization", states a paper by two Harvard scientists to be published November 12 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

"It is going extremely fast and on such a trajectory that we can say with confidence that this object is on its way out of the solar system and not coming back", Mr Farnocchia said shortly after its discovery.

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"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.

"Not 'where is the lack of evidence so that I can fit in any hypothesis that I like?"

The research paper said: "Considering an artificial origin, one possibility is that Oumuamua is a lightsail, floating in interstellar space as a debris from an advanced technological equipment".

He raised questions in particular about the object's tumbling motion.

But Loeb called the conjecture "purely scientific and evidence-based", adding, "I follow the maxim of Sherlock Holmes: When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth".

Oumuamua has now left the solar system and is no longer visible even with telescopes. Loeb is saying that the Oumuamua doesn't exhibit the type of characteristics seen in other comets and asteroids.

"They have not come out and flatly said this is an alien spacecraft".

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