Did an alien space probe pass near Earth previous year?

This diagram shows the orbit of the interstellar object ‘Oumuamua as it passes through the Solar System. It shows the predicted path of ‘Oumuamua and the new course taking the new measured velocity of the object into account. ‘Oumuamua passed the

This diagram shows the orbit of the interstellar object ‘Oumuamua as it passes through the Solar System. It shows the predicted path of ‘Oumuamua and the new course taking the new measured velocity of the object into account. ‘Oumuamua passed the

Scientists have been trying to figure out what the 1,312ft (400m) object named Oumuamua might be after it was first spotted by a telescope in Hawaii in October 2017.

A cigar-shaped interstellar object that flew past the sun could be an alien spacecraft, researchers from Harvard University have said.

That's why the researchers raise the possibility that Oumuamua's an alien craft in the new issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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

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.

"This would account for the various anomalies of 'Oumuamua, such as the unusual geometry inferred from its light-curve, its low thermal emission, suggesting high reflectivity, and its deviation from a Keplerian orbit without any sign of a cometary tail or spin-up torques".

Avi Loeb, Harvard's astronomy department chairman and a co-author of the paper, cautions that it's "impossible to guess the goal behind Oumuamua without more data".

If Oumuamua is a lightsail, he added, one possibility is that it was floating in interstellar space when our solar system ran into it, "like a ship bumping into a buoy on the surface of the ocean", NBC News reported.

The paper, written by Abraham Loeb, professor and chair of astronomy, and Shmuel Bialy, a postdoctoral scholar, at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, points out that comparable light-sails already exist on earth.

"It's certainly ingenious to show that an object the size of Oumuamua might be sent by aliens to another star system with nothing but a solar sail for power", Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., told NBC News. "One should not blindly accept this clever hypothesis when there is also a mundane (and a priori more likely) explanation for Oumuamua".

Of course, the pair aren't claiming that Oumuamua's definitely of alien origin.

He said: "If it were a spacecraft, this tumbling would make it impossible to keep any instruments pointed at the Earth".

But Loeb called the conjecture "purely scientific and evidence-based", adding, "I follow the maxim of Sherlock Holmes: When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth".

Scientists have been puzzling over "Oumuamua" ever since the mysterious object was seen tumbling past the sun in late 2017.

The Oumuamua was spotted late a year ago as it drifted into the solar system and passed close enough to the sun that it could be seen on observational telescopes.

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