Interstellar asteroid could be 'alien' mission searching for life

An artist's depiction of Oumuamua the first detected interstellar object

The object, nicknamed the "Oumuamua", meaning "messenger, which stretches from the distant past" in the Hawaiian Islands, was first discovered in October 2017, the telescope Pan-STARRS 1 in Hawaii. While there's a possibility that the object is merely an abnormally thin, extremely large naturally-occurring piece of interstellar rock - it didn't emit any radio signals detectable by human instruments - they speculate that it could be a defunct light-sail, space detritus fallen from a long-gone ship. Studies re-examining the light signals more carefully suggest that Oumuamua could be very elongated cigar-shaped to pancake-shaped."What is clear is that it can't have a shape that is almost spherical - like normal rocks we know", he said.Loeb said the mystery of Oumuamua's origin remains.

The paper's authors, which include Avi Loeb, chair of Harvard's astronomy department, suggest the object could be a "lightsail" used to propel spacecraft with solar energy.

"Light sails with similar dimensions was designed and built by our own civilization, including the IKAROS project and" Starshot Initiative ".

It was first recognised as a comet, but was later described as an asteroid.

The object's flat, elongated shape and reddish colour is from outside our solar system, according to the researchers.

Comets, in particular, are known to speed up due to "outgassing", a process in which the sun heats the surface of the icy comet, releasing melted gas.

It was moving at 59,030mph when it was first tracked by scientists.

"This serendipitous discovery is bonus science enabled by NASA's efforts to find, track and characterize near-Earth objects that could potentially pose a threat to our planet".

A new study as found a huge cigar-shaped object travelling through space could be an alien spaceship.

Of course, the pair aren't claiming that Oumuamua's definitely of alien origin. "In fact, they only mention the word 'alien" once, when they mention in passing that 'Oumuamua might have been targeted to intercept the solar system.

It's also entirely possible - perhaps more possible - that the object isn't part of a far-flung alien race's attempts to investigate the (other) occupants of the Milky Way.

Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI (Search for extraterrestrial intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, California, said: "It's certainly ingenious to show that an object the size of Oumumua might be sent by aliens to another star system with nothing but a solar sail for power".

The theory, which the scientists call "exotic", comes from a recent paper they wrote which was published online in November.

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