Oumuamua: Harvard astrophysicist believes mysterious asteroid was sent by extraterrestrials
In October 2017, Canadian astronomer Robert Weryk made a surprising discovery with the Pan-STARRS1 telescope of the Haleakala Observatory, in Hawaii. The scientist observed one strange elongated object the size of a football field traveling through the solar system at 315,000 kilometers per hour, driven by an invisible inexplicable force.
The object was later nicknamed Oumuamua – “Messenger of the Stars,” in Hawaiian – and scientists believe it may have been the first visitor from outside the solar system to be observed directly.
Many hypotheses have already tried to decipher what it was, but the proposal of Avi Loeb, astrophysicist and professor at Harvard University, is more unusual because it claims that the object is one probe sent by an extraterrestrial civilization.
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In his new book, the expert once again explores his hypothesis (advanced in 2019) and also addresses the difficulty of being taken seriously within the scientific community, even when it is accepted that the theories do not answer all the questions posed by the characteristics of Oumuamua. Loeb gives as an example the hypothesis that the object is a ball of dust, and argues that its strange trajectory can be explained by its very low density. “The problem is, I don’t think anything the size of a football field that’s a ball of dust would survive a million-year journey through interstellar space,” he explains.
The astrophysicist believes that the explanations based on the scientific knowledge we have so far are not enough in front of the mysterious object – and that’s how he arrived at the extraterrestrial hypothesis. Loeb suggests that Oumuamua is one solar sail – a form of space nova propulsion that uses low-pressure solar radiation to generate motion – sent into the solar system from another system. The scientist believes that this explains the unexpected acceleration of the object.
If it is solid, it must still have a thickness of less than a millimeter, according to Loeb’s calculations, who believes that this is the more logical conclusion when we follow the clues that have ruled out other more immediate hypotheses.
Even so, the scientific community continues to doubt Loeb’s explanation. A 2019 study stated that there is no supporting evidence of an alien link with Oumuamua because its “properties are consistent with a natural origin”, rather proposing that the object is a fragment of a planetary block floating through our solar system.
Weryk, who discovered the object, is skeptical of Loeb’s theory, believing rather that it is just a “relic of another solar system”. But the astrophysicist is not deterred by his lack of support from other astronomers. “The guiding principle is modesty. If we are not arrogant, if we are modest, we would say that life, as it is, should be ordinary “, he defends himself.
Loeb believes it’s all one question of probability. “We know from the Kepler satellite data that about half of the Sun-like stars have an Earth-like planet at a similar distance and that they may have liquid water and the chemistry of life as we know it.”
Loeb concludes by recalling that other fields of study, such as dark matter or string theory, are based on speculation, but that does not preclude the existence of “communities of hundreds of scientists working to reward each other”.