A mysterious object, the first known interstellar object to visit the solar system, whizzed past the sun at 196,000 mph just over a year ago.
It was discovered by the University of Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS1 telescope on Oct. 19, 2017 and named Oumuamua, which means “a messenger from afar arriving first” in Hawaiian.
The telescope revealed what appeared to be a rocky, cigar-shaped object with a slightly reddish hue and was first classified as a comet, but then briefly classified as an asteroid, except that it accelerated during its slingshot past the sun, something a comet might do.
However, Oumuamua is unlike any comet ever documented in the solar system. It measures up to a quarter mile wide and is highly elongated, as much as 10 times as long as it is wide, according to NASA, which called its shape “quite surprising, and unlike objects seen in our solar system.”
NASA said the object will continue moving at a high speed out of the solar system, but its visit has provoked researchers’ curiosity about what it is exactly and where it came from.
Now two researchers from Harvard have theorized in a new paper expected to be published on Nov. 12 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters that Oumuamua is really an alien spacecraft, according to NBC News. Scientists Shmuel Bialy and Abraham Loeb have suggested the object “may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization.”
The pair suggests that the Oumuamua probe, if that is indeed what it is, or even if it is a natural object, is powered by radiation, in a process never before seen in a space object and that it may have formed in deep space, according to the Independent.
But the researchers have taken it a step further.
"One possibility is that ‘Oumuamua is a lightsail, floating in interstellar space as a debris from an advanced technological equipment,” Bialy and Loeb suggested, meaning it could be space debris from another planetary system, which could account for its strange shape and unusual characteristics.
Researchers here on Earth are already experimenting with lightsail technology, attempting to power light spacecraft with sunlight, and Bialy and Loeb have suggested the technology was already invented in another galaxy, the Independent reported, and could be used to move cargo between planets or stars.
Oumuamua has already moved well out of range of Earth’s telescopes, but researchers are still analyzing it and hope to discover more about this mysterious interstellar visitor.
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