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Harvard Researchers Suggest Interstellar Object Might Have Been From Alien Civilization

Tuesday November 6, 2018. 03:00 PM , from Slashdot
A strange interstellar object that invaded our solar system and passed close to Earth in the fall of 2017 could have been an artificial object, a piece of a spacecraft from an alien civilization, Harvard researchers are suggesting in a new paper [PDF]. From a report: 'There is data on the orbit of this object for which there is no other explanation. So we wrote this paper suggesting this explanation,' said Professor Avi Loeb, chairman of the Harvard astronomy department. 'The approach I take to the subject is purely scientific and evidence-based. As far as I know, there is no other explanation. You can rule it out or in, based on additional data.' He said the study had been accepted for publication in the The Astrophysical Journal Letters on Nov. 12. The paper, written by Loeb and postdoctoral researcher Shmuel Bialy, suggests the object might be a light sail, or solar sail -- a proposed method of powering spacecraft that uses a sail to catch radiation pressure and propel the spacecraft, just as a normal sail uses the wind to propel a boat. The object 'Oumuamua -- Hawaiian for 'messenger from afar arriving first' -- is the first ever observed intruding in the orbits of our planets. It was picked up by telescopes in October 2017 at the University of Hawaii's Haleakala Observatory, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said. It is on its way out of the solar system and expected to never return. Scientists say other 'interstellar' objects may have sailed by in the past, undetected. The object raised eyebrows. It was monitored for signs of radio signals as weak as one-tenth of a cellphone-strength signal, but nothing was detected. Researchers said in December 2017 that it appeared to be a naturally formed, icy object covered with a dry crust. Further reading: Interstellar Visitor 'Oumuamua Is a Comet After All (June 2018), Scientists say mysterious 'Oumuamua' object could be an alien spacecraft, and Cigar-shaped interstellar object may have been an alien probe, Harvard paper claims.

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