Interstellar Object ‘Oumuamua May Be a Massive Alien ‘Solar Sail’ Exploring our Solar System

The object is accelerating and changing its trajectory.

In 2017, a mysterious interstellar object was spotted by NASA traveling through our solar system. Several scientific studies analyzed the nature of the object called ‘Oumumua. 

Scientists have now found that ‘Oumuamua has just accelerated and changed its trajectory.

Now, a new study claims that the massive ‘asteroid’ could, in fact, be a supermassive alien solar sail, sent to our solar system by another civilization in order to look for signs of life.

Scientists from the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) analyzed the mysterious cigar-shaped object and an unexpected boost in speed and shift in trajectory as it passed through the inner solar system last year.

A NASA graphic showing the distinctive tumbling motion of ‘Oumuamua.
A NASA graphic showing the distinctive tumbling motion of ‘Oumuamua.

Asteroids don’t really change their speed nor their trajectory.

Therefore’ experts concluded that the enigmatic object  ‘might be a lightsail of artificial origin.’

The study–‘Could Solar Radiation Pressure Explain ‘Oumuamua’s Peculiar Acceleration?’– was led by Shmuel Bialy, a postdoctoral researcher at the CfA’s Institute for Theory and Computation (ITC) and Professor Abraham Loeb, the director of the ITC, the Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science at Harvard University, and the head chair of the Breakthrough Starshot Advisory Committee.

Oumuamua travelling towards the outskirts of our solar system (NASA/ESA/STScI)
Oumuamua traveling towards the outskirts of our solar system (NASA/ESA/STScI)

According to astronomers, the unusual acceleration of ‘Oumuamua could be the result of ‘solar radiation’ pushing the solar sail forward.

Scientists found that if ‘Oumuamua was equipped with a sail that was only a fraction of a millimeter thick (0.3-0.9 mm) it would suffice for a sheet of solid material to survive the journey through the entire galaxy.

In fact, experts say that mankind has already produced similar sails, including the Japanese-designed IKAROS project and the Starshot Initiative.

“Considering an artificial origin, one possibility is that ‘Oumuamua is a light sail, floating in interstellar space as debris from an advanced technological equipment,” wrote experts in their study published in the preprint server arXiv.

“Alternatively, a more exotic scenario is that ‘Oumuamua may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization,” the astronomers added.

However, we’ve already scanned ‘Oumuamua looking for radio signals and have found none. But that doesn’t mean its not an alien ship. In fact, experts say that the lack of communoation from ‘Oumuamua could mean the object is actually an ‘alien shipwreck.’

Professor Loeb previously wrote in Scientific American that ‘Oumuamua could be the first known case of an artificial relic which literally floated into our Solar System from interstellar space.

“This opportunity establishes a potential foundation for a new frontier of space archaeology, namely the study of relics from past civilizations in space.”

“Finding evidence for space junk of artificial origin would provide an affirmative answer to the age-old question ‘Are we alone?’. This would have a dramatic impact on our culture and add a new cosmic perspective to the significance of human activity.”

Speaking to Universe today, Professor Loeb explained that ” ‘Oumuamua could be an active piece of alien technology that came to explore our Solar System, the same way we hope to explore Alpha Centauri using Starshot and similar technologies.”

“The alternative is to imagine that `Oumuamua was on a reconnaissance mission. The reason I contemplate the reconnaissance possibility is that the assumption that `Oumumua followed a random orbit requires the production of ~10^{15} such objects per star in our galaxy. This abundance is up to a hundred million times more than expected from the Solar System, based on a calculation that we did back in 2009. A surprisingly high overabundance, unless `Oumuamua is a targeted probe on a reconnaissance mission and not a member of a random population of objects.”

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