About a year ago, scientists using the Pan-STARRS1 telescope in Hawaii noticed what appeared to be a strange asteroid that passed through our solar system. It accelerates forward very quickly, around 64,000 kilometers per hour (40,000 mph), that they realize that it must be from another place altogether.
They nicknamed the asteroid ‘Oumuamua, said Hawaii for" distant envoys who came first. "They think it can be a potential host of extraterrestrial life. But telescope technology currently available does not find records of asteroids.
However, there are some strange things about & # 39; Oumuamua: Usually, scientists will assume that interstellar objects will become comets. But comets have a gas cloud around them, and & # 39; Oumuamua doesn't seem to have it. Second, it seems to be accelerating – and not through the gravitational pull of other objects, as the researchers expected.
The mystery prompted Shmuel Bialy, a postdoctoral associate at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and Avi Loeb, another Harvard astronomer, to try to find out what had happened to "Oumuamua." One possibility is that the asteroid was sailing on solar radiation. "This is already a phenomenon known that when radiation hits an object, it can cause acceleration," Bialy said. "It's like a wind that hits a screen," except instead of wind, light pushes the object forward.
On November 1, Bialy and Loeb released a pre-printed paper, which will be published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters later this month, exploring the hypothesis of solar radiation. Their conclusion: If & quot; Oumuamua is being driven by solar radiation, it must be less than one millimeter thick, and hundreds of meters in length. This form may have difficulty holding dust, plasma, and the extreme temperatures of the interstellar medium. And even if its shape can withstand interstellar weathering, it will still be a form unlike anything on Earth, or anything that can be under the law of astrophysics that is understood today.
In other words? Something strange is happening with & # 39; Oumuamua. Bialy and Loeb concluded that it might come from "artificial origin," implying that it was made by something other than natural formation. Or, when they write, "a more exotic scenario is that 'Oumuamua might be a fully operational investigation sent deliberately to around the Earth by alien civilization. "
News outlets have since gone to the city with headlines stating that scientists at a leading institution suggest foreigners as a real possibility. Many outlets also quote astrophysicists who disagree. "I am clearly unsure and honestly think that this research is rather flawed," Alan Jackson, a colleague at the Planet Science Center at the University of Toronto Scarborough, told CNN. Other scientists take to Twitter:
As many have pointed out, there is not enough evidence to show that 'Oumuamua I s alien probes – that's just an unproven theory. And as Verge points out, Loeb might be inclined to look for very thin alien probes: He is currently advising a project called Breakthrough Starshot, a project founded by technology entrepreneur Yuri Milner and his wife Julia, who hopes to send a spacecraft similar to proposed form from & # 39; Oumuamua to Alpha Centauri, the closest star to our solar system at a distance of four light years. The project board includes the late Stephen Hawking, along with Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook. Loeb admitted that he had a light screen in the brain. "The fact that I was involved in a project using a screen of light allowed me, or encouraged me, to think about it," he told Verge.
Meanwhile, Bialy has a different perspective. "Most likely, our paper is wrong and there is a simpler explanation [for ‘Oumuamua], "he said. But so far, no one has proposed a better explanation of what interstellar objects can do not aliens, astrophysicists must come with better choices.
Finding other answers will be challenging. There is limited data about 'Oumuamua, because scientists can only observe it for about two weeks before he jumps over our solar system. Maybe it's impossible to find a simple answer with the information we have.
However, the fact that scientists are able to see these interstellar objects is likely to mean that they can find more in the future, Bialy argues. And if scientists are better prepared to observe interstellar objects, maybe they can get more data about them to find out what they really are. A good starting point is to get actual photographic images from & # 39; Oumuamua; at present, scientists work with the artist's own concept, based on measurements taken by a remote telescope.
Until then, scientists could not rule out the idea that umu Oumuamua not alien probe. Bialy hopes that it will be enough inspiration to try to find out what it really is.