Harvard scientists: odd asteroid could be a 'probe' from an 'alien civilisation'

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

And scientists still don't know if it represents an entirely new class of objects - neither comet nor asteroid - that are hurtling through the galaxy. If it was then deployed again on entering the solar system it would be pristine. Not only is it the first-ever interstellar asteroid or comet detected by astronomers while passing through the solar system, its shape is odd, its acceleration is unexpected, and a cometary tail - the signature trail of particles seen behind shooting stars - is conspicuous in its absence.

"For decades we've theorized that such interstellar objects are out there, and now―for the first time―we have direct evidence they exist", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in a 2017 news release.

"It is impossible to guess the goal behind Oumuamua without more data", Avi Loeb, chairman of Harvard's astronomy department and a co-author of the paper, told NBC News.

The object has been described as "a dark red highly-elongated metallic or rocky object, about 400 metres long, and is unlike anything normally found in the solar system".

There are less "exotic" explanations for Oumuamua that are still brain-meltingly awesome. But Oumuamua didn't show typical signs of a comet, like a tail of dust and gas.

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The researchers did not say directly that the aliens sent Omwamwi. In their paper, the Harvard scientists say it may have been something called a "solar sail". Even the spinning motion of a damaged solar sail would be far more strongly influenced by the radiation forces than seen, he explained.

They add in the paper that the object could be a "lightsail of artifical origin".

'But until every other possibility has been exhausted dozen times over, even the authors probably don't believe it'. "What they have said is there is interesting and unusual and anomalous behaviour which could potentially be explained by it being an alien spacecraft".

"The likelihood of Galactic panspermia is strongly dependent upon the survival lifetime of the putative organisms as well as the velocity of the transporter", Manasvi Lingam and Loeb from this current study said in another paper published previously in the Astrophysical Journal.

The paper goes on to explore the idea that Oumuamua could possibly be a broken off part of an alien probe.

Instead, it had dived between Mercury and the sun and was zooming past Earth on its way out of our solar system, a path that meant Oumuamua was an interstellar traveler from beyond the solar system. "It's fun and thought-provoking, and the issue of whether there is alien life out there is really important".