Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics: strange asteroid ‘might be a lightsail of artificial origin’

In a new study, astronomers from the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics say asteroid ‘Oumuamua could be a giant solar sail ‘sent from another civilization to look for signs of life’.

The study – ‘Could Solar Radiation Pressure Explain ‘Oumuamua’s Peculiar Acceleration?’ was conducted by Shmuel Bialy, a postdoctoral researcher at the CfA’s Institute for Theory and Computation (ITC) and Professor Abraham Loeb, the director of the ITC, the Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science at Harvard University, and the head chair of the Breakthrough Starshot Advisory Committee. These astronomers have analyzed the strange cigar shape of the object, and an unexpected boost in speed and shift in trajectory as it passed through the inner solar system last year.

The researchers say the strange acceleration could the the result of solar radiation pushing a giant artificial solar sail.

Lightsails with similar dimensions have been designed and constructed by humans, including the Japanese-designed IKAROS project and the Starshot Initiative with which he is involved. A sail that was only a fraction of a millimeter thick (0.3-0.9 mm) would be sufficient for a sheet of solid material to survive the journey through the entire galaxy.

But they propose some alternatives to this theory also:

‘Alternatively, a more exotic scenario is that ‘Oumuamua may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization,’ they added.

Another option, which explains the lack of communication, a lack of any kind of signal could mean the giant object is actually an ‘alien shipwreck’.

You can read the whole study here.

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