A few days ago, the head of Harvard’s department of astronomy postulated that a strange space object that visited our Solar System from interstellar space could be an alien probe. He and his colleague discussed their theory in a paper published earlier this week, analyzing the possible origins of the space object.
However, there should be some skepticism about the claim that the object confirming the existence of ‘aliens’. While the theory may have merit, most scientists still argue that a natural explanation is more plausible. In addition, both the scientists who made this auspicious claim are currently researching the possibility of extra-terrestrial life in outer space, so they might have had a certain bias towards their own theory.
The paper was written by Avi Loeb and Shmuel Bialy, two astrophysicists from Harvard university who were trying to describe some abnormal behavioral patterns from a space rock called ‘Oumuamua’. First seen last October, the space rock is a mysterious object floating through our Solar System from some unknown galaxy. Objects like this are believed to commonly pass through our solar system but this is the first ‘exo-comet’ (comet from outside out cosmic area) that has been detected.
While also being an uncommon discovery, Oumuamua is somewhat strange. Astronomers usually expect comets such as these to be icy comets, covered by a trail of gust and gas. However, Oumuamua doesn’t have this dusty cloud, which makes it seem like an asteroid made of rock and metal. So, scientists are unsure whether it is a comet, an asteroid, or some new space object that man has yet to discover.
Once Oumuamua’s orbit was analyzed, the European space agency noted that the object was accelerating more than it would be if it was interacting with the gravity of the planets in the Solar System. They eventually concluded that Oumuamua was a comet, and that the ice in the object is being heated by the sun in order to bypass the gas and accelerate at a quicker rate.
However, both Loeb and Bialy were skeptical of the comet theorem, since no one was able to observe the gas or dust coming from Oumuamua. The duo also explains that if gas were coming from the object, it would change how the object is rotating, something that hasn’t been seen. Loeb claims this rules out the possibility that it’s a comet.
According to Loeb, Oumuamua could be a “light sail”, a thin artificial sail that runs on sunlight. He claims that this light sail was sent here intentionally be an alien civilization. He has looked into light sales for years now, and wants to send a thin light sail space craft, powered by a giant laser, into outer space.
Loeb openly says that his work with his space craft helped him come to the conclusion that Oumuamua could be an alien light sail.
“Out imagination is limited to what we know about. And the fact that I’m involved in a project that uses the light sail allowed me, or encouraged me, to think about it.”
Nonetheless, most scientists still argue that a natural explanation is still plausible. While no gas or dust has been seen coming from Oumuamua, it doesn’t necessarily mean the material isn’t there. Scientists have only had two weeks to observe the object a few weeks ago, before it got too far from earth and therefore too faint to be examined by ground-based telescopes. The only telescope that could be used to observe Oumuamua was the Hubble Space telescope, and the Hubble mostly tracked its orbit around the sun.
Therefore, its not entirely implausible that the telescopes used to look at Oumuamua weren’t able to see the materials coming from the space object.
“Because of weather and what weather occurred with such telescopes on the planet, we weren’t able to potentially see the dust.”, said Michele Bannister, an astronomer not associated with this research but an expert on the subject at Queen’s University Belfast.
While the possibility still exists, it seems like a bit of a stretch with the current evidence available.
Fitzsimmons, an astronomer at Queen’s university in Belfast, says:
“I can understand the excitement, and as a scientist, I can’t sit here and say I have 100% evidence this was a natural object. It’s just that all the observations can be matched with a natural object.”
Perhaps the main worry some scientists have is that when we do develop the tech to detect real signs of alien life, many people might not believe it after numerous false claims.