Cigar-Shaped Object May Have Been Alien Spacecraft, Researchers Claim

Artist’s impression of the large thin ’Oumuamua object venting gasses as it approaches the sun

The researchers noted in a pre-print of the article that it was an "exotic scenario", but that "Oumuamua may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization". Its unusual origin story wasn't the only thing that set Oumuamua apart from other comets and asteroids - it was also odd in shape; highly elongated, like a cosmic cigar.

Scientists with the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics published a new study discussing the origins of such an object, including the possibility that it might be a "lightsail of artificial origin, designed for interstellar travel".

Oumuamua, which is regarded as a "new class" of space object, sped past Earth and looped around our sun at 196,000mph.

New research from Harvard astronomers claims the only explanation for a mysterious object that flew close to the sun past year is an alien spacecraft, but their bold claim has drawn criticism from a number of other astronomers. The team termed the possible propulsion system a "lightsail of artificial origin".

The researchers are not saying outright that Oumuamua is a sign of extraterrestrial life. There are probably "thousands of interstellar 'Oumuamua-like" objects "trapped" somewhere in the solar system, they wrote.

Not all shells are the same, and similarly only a fraction of the interstellar objects might be technological debris of alien civilizations.

In a paper to be published November 12 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, the pair declare that the reddish, elongated, stadium-sized object "may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization", NBC News reported.

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Claiming the vessel may be made by aliens, Dr Bialy told The Times: 'Even if there's a small chance it's so interesting that we can't ignore it'.

But SETI senior astronomer Seth Shostak said in an email to NBC that "one should not blindly accept this clever hypothesis when there is also a mundane explanation for 'Oumuamua - namely that it's a comet or asteroid from afar".

At first, astronomers thought the rapidly moving faint light was a regular comet or an asteroid that had originated in our solar system.

Bailer-Jones, who earlier this year led a group of scientists who identified four dwarf stars as likely origin points for Oumuamua, raised questions in particular about the object's tumbling motion.

Oumuamua has left the solar system and is no longer visible, the news outlet noted.

"I follow the maxim of Sherlock Holmes: When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth", Loeb said.

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