Mysterious interstellar asteroid could be a solar sail from wrecked alien probe, astronomers say Interstellar mystery rock Oumuamua might have been part of an alien reconnaissance mission, according to two Harvard Smithsonian astronomers who saw in the odd object signs it could be a light-driven probe.
At least, that's what astronomers from Harvard University suggest in a research paper.
In late October, 2017, NASA said the recently discovered interstellar visitor appeared "to have originated from outside the solar system, coming from somewhere else in our galaxy".
The object was said to be 10 times longer than it is wide and it traveled at speeds of almost 200,000 miles per hour.
Speaking with Universe Today, Mr Loeb said: "We explain the excess acceleration of Oumuamua away from the sun as the result of the force that the sunlight exerts on its surface".
"If we consider an artificial origin, one possibility is that "Omwamwi" is the light sail, floating in interstellar space as the chip advanced technological equipment", - wrote the authors of the article, indicating that the object can move due to solar radiation.
The object's flat, elongated shape and reddish colour is from outside our solar system, according to the researchers. They have highlighted that light-sails with similar dimensions have already been designed and built by our own civilisation.
On its face, the study is trying to reconcile 'Oumuamua's pattern of acceleration, which matches that of a comet, to other observations that suggest it's not an active comet. "Technology light sails may be used to transport cargo between planets or between the stars". But Oumuamua didn't show typical signs of a comet, like a tail of dust and gas. SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, tried to detect signals from the object, but found nothing.
Of course, the pair aren't claiming that Oumuamua's definitely of alien origin. The object has left our solar system and is no longer visible even with telescopes.
"This unusual object ... is less than [400 metres] in diameter and is moving remarkably fast", NASA said at the time.
'Like most scientists, I would love there to be convincing evidence of alien life, but this isn't it, ' said Alan Fitzsimmons, an astrophysicist at Queens University, Belfast.
It's also entirely possible - perhaps more possible - that the object isn't part of a far-flung alien race's attempts to investigate the (other) occupants of the Milky Way. Do you think the interstellar object was actually an alien probe?