First interstellar object Oumuamua is a Space mystery
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (SBG) - When a distinguished Harvard astronomer claimed that a long, cigar-shaped object that passed earth not long ago could have come from aliens, it caught the attention of the world.
And it raised a few eyebrows as well.
There's a good chance you've looked up at the sky to gaze at the sun, moon and stars.
But what - or who - else is out there?
"For me, the question of whether we are alone is the most fundamental," said Harvard Professor Avi Loeb.
Avi Loeb is the Chair of the Astronomy Department at Harvard University and is making headlines around the world because of his take on a mysterious cigar-shaped object: the first known interstellar object to visit our solar system.
A faint light speeding past the sun was discovered in Hawaii in 2017 and was named Oumuamua, the Hawaiian word meaning "a messenger from afar arriving first."
"It seems to be very strange," Professor Loeb said."
It led Loeb to an extraordinary idea.
In a paper published last fall, he and another researcher write Oumuamua may be a light sail from advanced alien equipment or even a probe sent to earth intentionally.
He says it's not speculation, but science, based on Oumuamua's unusual trajectory and unexplained boost of speed.
"The only force that I could think of is the pressure of light pushing it just like a light sail,” Professor Loeb said.
Just like wind pushes a boat. The technology is being designed and tested by NASA and other groups, one of which Loeb is a part of.
"It's quite possible that another civilization that had much more time for its technological development already matured this technology and, as a result, they're using it,” Professor Loeb said.
We asked what he says to those people who are scratching their heads right now and saying, really? Aliens?
"Well, it's a possibility,” Loeb said.
No surprise, the theory has been met with skepticism.
"I do not believe it is a likely scenario,” said Julie Ziffer, professor and head of the Physics Department at the University of Southern Maine.
"I think it was ejected from some other system and probably is a fragment of some sort of rocky body from another system,” Professor Ziffer said.
There are three reasons Ziffer doesn't think it could be aliens:
One, there was no radio signal detected.
Two, the fact that it's tumbling instead of under control.
And three, it would have been sent millions of years ago, she says. making perfect navigation to earth unlikely.
"When you are the head of a department at Harvard, Professor Ziffer suggested, you have more freedom to go out on a limb than other people in the field."
Loeb agrees. Tenure at a prominent University allows him the freedom to talk topics that are taboo.
"Science is not about preserving your image,” Professor Loeb said. “It's about pursuing the truth.”
The truth about Oumuamua remains a mystery since it has left our solar system never to return. With technology constantly evolving, Professor Loeb hopes we'll learn more the next time we have an interstellar visitor.