You know what’s rare? Scientists, actual proper scientists, looking at something and saying things like “Aliens, for deffo”.
It’s happening, though, according to some Harvard bigwigs, a weird elongated object that passed through the solar system last year “may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization.”
We repeat: these are the words of proper scientists. Not some zany tinfoil hat wearing Redditor, but actual scientists. researchers at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and they’re saying this thing could have been an alien. Astonishing.
How did the `Oumuamua get spotted and what does it mean?
The object was first spotted from Haleakala Observatory, Hawaii, on October 19th 2017, and given the extremely cool Hawaiian name `Oumuamua (the apostrophe-like mark is part of it, Hawaiian is an awesome language. The mark represents a glottal stop, like the break in the middle of “uh-oh”, which it would be rare to start a word with in English but is totally a thing in Hawaiian. It’s called an `okina, and it is brilliant.). `Oumuamua means “a messenger that reaches out from the distant past”.
BUT ENOUGH ABOUT POLYNESIAN LINGUISTICS, LET’S TALK ALIENS.
So what the hell is it?
What `Oumuamua actually is is a complicated matter – it’s the first thing to ever be given the classification “interstellar object”, due to its unknowable origins outside our solar system. It’s dark red, somewhere between 250m and one kilometre long, ten times longer than it is wide, and is spinning end-over-end through space at about 196,000 mph. When it entered (and subsequently left) our solar system, there was a boost in its speed which intrigued the Harvard team.
Their theory – and this is really, really cool – is that it might be a light sail, powered by solar radiation and of an “artificial origin” (i.e. built by aliens).
The paper’s authors, Loeb et al, state: “`Oumuamua may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization. (…) Considering an artificial origin, one possibility is that `Oumuamua is a light sail, floating in interstellar space as a debris from an advanced technological equipment.”
They go on to theorise that light-sail technology might be used for transporting cargo between planets or stars, and that `Oumuamua’s unusual, spinning trajectory and low thermal emission stem from it not being operational anymore.
Does this prove that, not only are we not alone in the universe, we’re not the smartest civilization in the universe either? Who knows, it’s an exciting bedtime story, none-the-less. The truth is out there, as they say.
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(Alien images from Pixabay, ‘Oumuamua image by nagualdesign)