Harvard astronomers: Mysterious object possibly alien spacecraft

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A massive flattened boulder-like object traveling through space with "peculiar acceleration" could be an alien craft, according to a new study.

Oumuamua was the first interstellar object to ever be seen by mankind, with unusual characteristics such as its "extreme aspect ratio" and "spinning motion".

Loeb calculated that for it to be a random object following a random orbit, there would have to be 100 million times more of its type hanging around in the solar system.

The estimated 400 metre-long object sped through our inner solar system at a speed of more than 26 kilometres per second before departing in January 2018.

The Oumuamua was first discovered by a telescope in Hawaii.

"Light sails with similar dimensions was designed and built by our own civilization, including the IKAROS project and" Starshot Initiative ". "The lightsail technology might be abundantly used for transportation of cargos between planets or between stars". Nicknamed "Oumuamua", the object has an exceptionally odd shape that distinguishes it from most asteroids and comets: It's a stadium-sized mass with a flat, elongated body that is reddish in color.

It is known that comets are accelerated through a process known as "degassing" when the sun heats the icy surface, releasing the molten gas.

An alien civilisation sent a spaceship to investigate Earth and we mistook it for an asteroid, astronomers from one of the world's top universities have suggested.

"Because I am a scientist, not a believer, I rely on evidence to find possible physical explanations for observed phenomena".

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Yesterday, a number of astronomers criticized Loeb's conclusions, particularly the lack of direct evidence pointing to alien influence.

In any case, said Loeb, the fact that we saw one interstellar object, suggests that there may be others - and astronomers have to start their search.

Jackson said the spectral data from 'Oumuamua looks like an asteroid or a comet, while that of a solar sail would look very different.

"Any functional spacecraft would nearly certainly retract its solar sail once in interstellar space to prevent damage", Jackson said.

The scientists sought to explain quirks in Oumuamua's movement by calculating whether it could be powered by the sun's radiation.

"If it was then deployed again on entering the solar system it would be pristine".

A certain "discrepancy" in the object's movement "is readily solved if 'Oumuamua does not follow a random trajectory but is rather a targeted probe", they write.

If Oumuamua is a lightsail floating in interstellar space, it could have been ejected from a planetary system as "space debris" from equipment that is no longer operational.

Some are not so sure the cigar-shaped 'Oumuamua is a solar sail, however.