Scientists Now Say Interstellar Object May Have Been Alien Probe
Harvard scientists reexamined the bizarre, interstellar space object known as “Oumuamua,” which rocketed through our solar system late last year, resurrecting the possibility that it may be an alien probe. Academics and scientists were quick to write off the cigar-shaped object as a previously unknown type of bolide – a comet or asteroid – propelled in a highly unusual manner, but their observations are once again, being challenged.
Oumuamua, which means “a messenger sent to reach out in advance,” was first observed by Robert Weryk at the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawaii. He measured the object to be several hundred meters in length, or the size of a large sports stadium.
The size and shape of the object were calculated to be able to hold up to collisions with space dust and debris while maintaining enough momentum to travel the vast distance between stars, but recent examinations found a discrepancy in its mass-to-area ratio that doesn’t quite add up.
“Known solar system objects, like asteroids and comets, have mass-to-area ratios orders of magnitude larger than our estimate for ‘Oumuamua,” said Shmuel Bialy and Abraham Loeb of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
“If radiation pressure is the accelerating force, then ‘Oumuamua represents a new class of thin, interstellar material, either produced naturally, or of an artificial origin.”
They went on to speculate about the possibility of Oumuamua as a type of artificial satellite known as a lightsail, which is currently in development by the Breakthrough Initiative program founded by Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking. Loeb is a member of the Breakthrough Starshot Initiative.
“The lightsail technology might be abundantly used for transportation of cargos between planets or between stars. In the former case, dynamical ejection from a planetary system could result in space debris of equipment that is not operational anymore and is floating at the characteristic speed of stars relative to each other in the Solar neighborhood. This would account for the various anomalies of ‘Oumuamua, such as the unusual geometry inferred from its lightcurve,” Bialy and Loeb said.
Oumuamua hurdled through our solar system at 58,000 mph when it was discovered on Oct. 19, 2017. The object was then propelled by the Sun’s gravity, causing it to blast off on a hyperbolic trajectory out of our solar system at a rate of 196,000 mph.
This exit speed was initially attributed to a combination of a gravity assist from the Sun and outgassing – the release of gasses from a comet as its surface heats. But scientists noticed that Oumuamua didn’t show the typical “coma,” or cloud of gas, one might expect from an outgassing comet, making its high escape velocity especially strange.
This led Loeb and Bialy to consider another potential for Oumuamua… a more exciting one.
“Alternatively, a more exotic scenario is that ‘Oumuamua may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization,” the authors said.
Unfortunately it’s way too late for us to send a probe to Oumuamua or even to photograph it so that it could be studied properly, due to simply to its sheer speed and the distance it’s already travelled from Earth. Instead, Bialy and Loeb suggest we keep our eyes out for similar objects careening through our local celestial neighborhood.
For more on the potential techno-signatures of extraterrestrial civilizations watch this episode of Deep Space :
More Mysterious Radio Bursts Were Detected Radiating From Space
Another series of mysterious “fast radio bursts” (FRBs) has been detected by a new telescope in Canada, emanating from somewhere deep in the cosmos. The last detection of FRBs came last year, picked up by Breakthrough Listen, a project focused on detecting signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life.
FRBs are a series of incredibly short, powerful radio emissions in millisecond lengths, coming form an unknown source, lightyears away. Signals were detected last year, named FRB 121102, and were the first repeating radio bursts ever discovered, believed to be emitting from a distant neutron star — the highly dense core of a collapsed star.
The source of the latest signals could be a number of things, including an exploding black hole, magnetar, a spinning pulsar known as a blitzar, or the most exciting prospect; a highly advanced extraterrestrial race.
The frequency of these signals, named FRB 180725A, are the first of their kind to be detected below 700 mHz. The FRBs earlier this year were above 800 mHz, with scientists calculating their source to be some 3 billion lightyears away. The source would have emanated the same amount of power in each burst as our sun does in an entire day.
If these mysterious waves are coming from an extraterrestrial civilization, their setup would be equivalent to two Earth-sized generators, and would likely exist as a power source for spacecraft, rather than simply sending signals into the universe to make their presence known.
The signals were detected by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) in British Columbia, a telescope that has been operating for under a year, with the primary goal of detecting FRBs. The telescope constantly scans 1,024 individual points in the sky 24/7, at 16,000 different frequencies, 1000 times per second; talk about an advanced piece of technology.
The first FRBs were discovered about a decade ago, making them one of the newest cosmological phenomena monitored by astrophysicists. Only a few dozen of these radio bursts have been detected since their initial discovery and scientists still consider the extraterrestrial explanation plausible.
Now that the CHIME telescope is solely focused on the signals, it may only be a matter of time until evidence of an intelligent extraterrestrial source are discovered. If they are from an advanced civilization, let’s just hope it still exists, considering these signals would have been sent millions or even billions of years ago.
Watch this episode of Ancient Civilizations in which we discuss the exciting prospect of an advanced extraterrestrial civilization transmitting FRBs: