‘Oumuamua continues making headlines around the world.
Avi Loeb, director of the department of astronomy at Harvard University and who has already made a statement on the matter, continues to insist that the mysterious interstellar object known as ‘Oumuamua could be “a probe sent to our solar system by intelligent alien beings”, despite criticism from fellow colleagues.
In an interview with German newspaper, Spiegel Professor Loeb said: “It can not be excluded that Oumuamua, the first interstellar asteroid detected in the Solar System, is a probe sent by another civilization.
During the interview, which you can read here, Der Spiegel asked Professor Loeb about his controversial study presented in Astrophysical Journal Letters.
DER SPIEGEL: In the publication Astrophysical Journal Letters, you recently presented the hypothesis that the first extraterrestrials might already be here.
Professor Loeb, chair of the astronomy department at Harvard University, who has published more than 700 papers on astrophysical phenomena answered:
Loeb: Yes. On Oct. 19, 2017, the PanSTARRS telescope in Hawaii detected an unusual object in the sky. It was moving so fast that it must have originated from someplace beyond our solar system, making it the first visitor from outer space that we know of. It was christened “‘Oumuamua.”
Der Spiegel had an excellent opportunity to speak with one of the most open-minded scientists in recent years, and they made it count.
DER SPIEGEL: ‘Oumuamua shouldn’t exist at all?
The Harvard scientists answered:
Loeb: That’s correct. Besides, it is quite a mysterious object in other respects, too. Its brightness changes dramatically, suggesting a very strange shape. A sphere would always reflect the same amount of sunlight. Only a disc or a cigar-shaped body would sometimes turn its edge and sometimes its broadside towards us, which would make it flicker while rotating.
But is it really E.T. visiting Earth?
DER SPIEGEL: But just because it has a strange shape doesn’t mean that ‘Oumuamua is a spaceship.
Loeb: I agree. But the more we found out about this object, the weirder it got. In June, a paper was published in the journal Nature describing the orbit of ‘Oumuamua. It differs significantly from an orbit shaped just by the gravitational field of the Sun.
Professor Loeb is the author of more than 700 articles on astrophysical phenomena. He explains that Oumuamua – which was discovered in October 2017 and whose name means ‘first messenger’ in Hawaiian – has a series of characteristics that are difficult to explain.
“The more we discover about this object, the stranger it becomes,” he says.
Thus, its brightness “changes dramatically,” suggesting that it has “a very rare form,” probably that of a disc or a cigar. On the other hand, the orbit of Oumuamua “differs significantly” from one formed only by the gravitational field of the Sun, which points to the existence of an “additional force” acting on this cosmic object.
What exactly this additional, cosmic force is, remains a profound scientific mystery.
Professor Loeb explained that “as long as there is no natural explanation for the mysteries related to the asteroid, we have the possibility that it is an artificial product, probably a light sail sent to our solar system by intelligent beings from elsewhere.
The German newspaper asked important questions.
DER SPIEGEL: If the very first object found from outside our solar system turns out to be an artifact, it would lead to the conclusion that such artifacts might be much more common out there than natural asteroids or comets. Could interstellar space be just a gigantic junkyard littered with the debris of alien civilizations?
Loeb: You are addressing an important point here. We’ve worked it out: If ‘Oumuamua is a randomly wandering object, every solar system would have to produce millions of billions of such objects. Unless it’s not random. It could be a targeted mission.