We might not be alone in the universe after all, at least according to some astronomers from Harvard University.
A mysterious, cigar-shaped object that’s been floating through space might have been sent from an “an alien civilization,” according to researchers at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
The object, nicknamed ‘Oumuamua, was originally spotted by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawaii back in October of 2017. The word ‘Oumuamua means “a messenger that reaches out from the distant past” in Hawaiian,” according to CNN.com.
The object has been generating interest from many scientists because it has an unusual shape, an unknown origin, and a peculiar movement pattern (not like comets and asteroids). Researchers originally called the object a comet, then an asteroid, before landing on “interstellar object.”
In their paper, which was submitted to the Astrophysical Journal Letters, the researchers said: “‘Oumuamua may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization.” The paper describes it as an “elongated dark-red object” that’s 10 times as long as it is wide, and has been traveling at “speeds of 196,000 mph.”
While this doesn’t suggest Earth will be invaded by aliens anytime soon, the researchers theorize that the unique shape and movements of the object could mean that ‘Oumuamua may have originated from somewhere outside our solar system.
“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,” the paper reads. “Light-sails with similar dimensions have been designed and constructed by our own civilization, including the IKAROS project and the Starshot Initiative. The light-sail technology might be abundantly used for transportation of cargos between planets or between stars. 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.”
If you’d like to dig in more on the research, you can read the full paper here from the the Astrophysical Journal Letters.