Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Boston, MA, United States (4E) – The cigar shaped “interstellar object” sighted tumbling close to the Earth a year ago might really be a reconnaissance probe means to spy on us, claim two Harvard researchers in a recently published study.
This fantastic, and much ridiculed, explanation of the true nature of this mysterious hunk of “rock” christened `Oumuamua by astronomers was put forth by Shmuel Bialy and Prof. Abraham Loeb at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
These researchers cogently argue `Oumuamua might have an “artificial origin” in their recently published study “Could Solar Radiation Pressure Explain ‘Oumuamua’s Peculiar Acceleration?”
Bialy and Loeb suggest `Oumuamua “may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization.”. They based their conclusion on `Oumuamua’s “excess acceleration,” or its unexpected boost in speed as it traveled through and out of our Solar System in January 2018.
More specifically, they believe `Oumuamua is, in reality, a “light-sail spacecraft.” A light sail is a type of spacecraft that relies on radiation pressure acting on massive “solar sails” to generate propulsion.
“Considering an artificial origin, one possibility is that ‘Oumuamua is a light sail, floating in interstellar space as a debris from an advanced technological equipment,” wrote Bialy and Loeb, suggesting the object is being propelled by solar radiation.
“Light-sails with similar dimensions have been designed and constructed by our own civilization, including the IKAROS project and the Starshot Initiative. The light-sail technology might be abundantly used for transportation of cargos between planets or between stars.”
Another possibility is this mystery object might be debris from an advanced technological equipment. Both scientists theorize `Oumuamua’s high speed and its unusual trajectory might be the result of it no longer being operational.
“This would account for the various anomalies of ‘Oumuamua, such as the unusual geometry inferred from its light-curve, its low thermal emission, suggesting high reflectivity, and its deviation from a Keplerian orbit without any sign of a cometary tail or spin-up torques.”
‘Oumuamua is the first object ever seen in our solar system that is known to have originated elsewhere.
Astronomers first thought the `Oumuamua was just another comet or an asteroid originating in our Solar System. Comets are known to pick-up speed due to a process known as “outgassing,” in which the Sun heats up the surface of the icy comet, releasing melted gas. ‘Oumuamua, however, didn’t have a “coma.”
Bialy and Loeb dismissed the outgassing explanation as causing `Oumuamua’s inexplicable acceleration. They said if `Oumuamua were in fact a comet, why then did it not experience outgassing when it was closest to our Sun?
They also cited other research showing that if outgassing were responsible for the acceleration, it would have also caused a rapid evolution in `Oumuamua’s spin, which wasn’t observed.
Formally designated 1I/2017 U1, `Oumuamua was discovered by Robert Weryk using the Pan-STARRS telescope at Haleakala Observatory in Hawaii, on Oct. 19, 2017, or 40 days after it passed its closest point to the Sun.
Since its discovery, `Oumuamua has exhibited actions inconsistent with a hunk of rock hurtling mindlessly through space. Because of this, scientists have been at odds to explain Oumuamua’s actions, unusual features and precise origins.
Scientists first called this thing that’s been tumbling through space a comet and then an asteroid. Unable to agree, they made `Oumuamua the first member of a new class of thing. They called it an “interstellar object.”
`Oumuamua is an elongated, dark red object that shows no signs of a cometary tail or coma despite its close approach to the Sun. It’s 10 times as long as it is wide and is tumbling along at speeds of 315,000 km/h.
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