The mysterious, elongated object named Oumuamua that hurtled past Earth last year could have been an alien spacecraft, according to astronomers from Harvard University.
Oumuamua—or “messenger from afar arriving first” in Hawaiian—was first discovered in October 2017 by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawaii. The shape was dark red, roughly oval, and flat, estimated to be a quarter-mile long. Oumuamua baffled scientists last year due to its unique speed and trajectory: as it passed through our solar system, Oumuamua accelerated.
According to two Harvard astronomers, the shape could have been a “fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization.”
In their new paper, Shmuel Bialy and Abraham Loeb of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics suggest Oumuamua could have been “a lightsail of artificial origin.”
The scientists are not claiming with certainty that Oumamua was definitely of alien origin (they admit in their paper that scenario is “exotic”), but the shape was determined to have come from outside our solar system.
Oumuamua was dubbed an “interstellar object” when scientists decided it was neither an asteroid or a comet; while comets can speed up in a process known as “outgassing,” the shape lacked the cloud of dust that surrounds a melting comet.
The Harvard paper will be published Nov. 12 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, NBC News reports. Not everyone, however, is convinced of its argument.
“I am distinctly unconvinced and honestly think the study is rather flawed,” Alan Jackson, fellow at the Centre for Planetary Sciences at the University of Toronto Scarborough, told CNN. “Carl Sagan once said, ‘extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence’ and this paper is distinctly lacking in evidence, nevermind extraordinary evidence.”