Scientists reveal mysterious 'Oumuamua' object could be an alien spacecraft

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

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

The object has been described as "a dark red highly-elongated metallic or rocky object, about 400 metres long, and is unlike anything normally found in the solar system".

Oumuamua "might be a lightsail of artificial origin", the paper says, referring to an object created to use solar radiation for propulsion.

The boulder-like object, nicknamed "Oumuamua", could be a "fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilisation", according to scientists from Harvard University.

According to the new study compiled by Shmuel Bialy and Abraham Loeb, "The large variations in its apparent magnitude and the non-trivial periodicity of the lightcurve, suggest that 'Oumuamua is rotating in an excited spin state (tumbling motion), and has an extreme aspect ratio of at least 5: 1, an unprecedented value for previously known asteroids and comets in the Solar System".

"It is impossible to guess the goal behind Oumuamua without more data", Avi Loeb, chairman of Harvard's astronomy department and a co-author of the paper, told NBC News in an email.

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.

"One possibility is that Oumuamua is a lightsail, floating in interstellar space as a debris from an advanced technological equipment", the paper says.

Coryn Bailer-Jones, an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, said: "In science, we must ask ourselves 'Where is the evidence?"

"But 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".

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

"Why send a spacecraft which is doing this?" he said.

Instead, it had dived between Mercury and the sun and was zooming past Earth on its way out of our solar system, a path that meant Oumuamua was an interstellar traveller from beyond the solar system.

But Harvard's research team says they're not giving up hope that it's a sign of alien life: they "follow the maxim of Sherlock Holmes: When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth".

When the object was first spotted scientists believed it might have been travelling through space for hundreds of millions of years.

Speaking with Universe Today, Mr Loeb said: "We explain the excess acceleration of Oumuamua away from the sun as the result of the force that the sunlight exerts on its surface".