Harvard astronomers believe that Oumuamua could be an alien space probe. (European Southern Observatory/M. Kornmesser)

Cigar-shaped interstellar object could be alien probe: Harvard

Astronomers say ‘Oumuamua’ is unlikely to be an asteroid or comet

A cigar-shaped object seen floating through space could be an alien probe, Harvard researchers suggest.

In a study published last week by the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, researchers say the object, dubbed “Oumuamua,” is the first object of “interstellar origin” observed in our solar system.

“Oumuamua may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth’s vicinity by an alien civilization,” researchers said.

NASA believes Oumuamua, which was discovered last fall by the University of Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS1 telescope, is about 400 metres long, and made up “of rock and possibly metals, has no water or ice, and that its surface was reddened due to the effects of irradiation from cosmic rays over hundreds of millions of years.”

It is forecast to travel beyond Saturn’s orbit, as it shoots through space at a speed of 38.3 kilometers per second.

The Harvard study’s authors acknowledged that an alien space probe is a “more exotic scenario,” and said Oumuamua could be either naturally occurring or accidental space debris, albeit still from a mystery source.

However, its mass-to-area ratio makes it unlikely that it’s merely an oddly shaped asteroid or comet.

Either way, researcher said it was too late to photograph Oumuamua with existing telescopes or to chase it with chemical rockets.

Instead, researchers, and the rest of us, will have to wait for a new Oumuamua to appear before we can discover what it really is.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Man, 31, charged in Cache Creek fatal shooting

Corey Richard Harkness appeared on one count of murder in provincial court in Kamloops

One man dead after shooting in Cache Creek

A gofundme page has been set up to fund a Celebration of Life for Brock Ledoux

Historic Nicola Valley church destroyed by fire

Murray United Church one of four Merritt-area churches touched by fire on same night

South Cariboo Minor Soccer gears up for new season

Registration has increased steadily every year since 2014, with the league nearly doubling in size

Local News Briefs: Ashcroft features in new movie

Plus workshops, a concert, a hockey fundraiser, grants, a health care survey, and much more

VIDEO: Students in MAGA hats mock Native American at Indigenous Peoples March

Diocese in Kentucky says it is investigating the matter, caught on video by onlookers

UPDATE: B.C. woman and boy, 6, found safe, RCMP confirm

Roseanne Supernault says both she and her six-year-old nephew are fine and she has contacted police

PHOTOS: Women’s Marches take to the streets across B.C. and beyond

Women and allies marched worldwide protesting violence against women, calling for equality

Anxiety in Alaska as endless aftershocks rattle residents

Seismologists expect the temblors to continue for months, although the frequency has lessened

Women’s March returns across the U.S. amid shutdown and controversy

The original march in 2017, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, drew hundreds of thousands of people

Federal Liberals announce former B.C. MLA as new candidate in byelection

Richard Lee will face off against federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh

No winning ticket in $10 million Lotto Max jackpot

No win in Friday night’s draw means the next Lotto Max draw will be approximately $17 million

Scientists ID another possible threat to orcas: pink salmon

For two decades, significantly more of the whales have died in even-numbered years than in odd years

Burnaby byelection turmoil sparks debate about identity issues in politics

The Liberals still have not said whether they plan to replace Wang, who stepped aside Wednesday

Most Read