Oumuamua is quite the unique asteroid, the first of its kind to be documented by Earth. This interstellar object was first spotted about a year ago by the Haleakala Observatory in Hawaii, with scientists agreeing that it must have come from outside of the Solar System.
The question of its origin remains, with scientists posing different theories and explanations. A pair of Harvard researchers believe that Oumuamua could be an alien spacecraft, publishing a scientific paper on the matter. On it, they argue that the asteroid’s trajectory, which sped up significantly when passing by the sun, could suggest that it’s a “lightsail of artificial origin”, meaning that it’s a device made by someone with the purpose of moving by the influence of light. Like a car that runs on solar panels.
In an interview with NBC News MACH, Avi Loeb, co-author of the paper, says that it’s impossible to know the purpose of Oumuamua without the existence more data, but that the idea of a “space lightsail” is something that has been explored by scientists on Earth, even if the project is still at its infancy. “I follow the maxim of Sherlock Holmes: When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth,” Loeb says.
Scientists and researchers from other organizations credit Harvard’s paper with its creative idea, yet believe that it’s much more likely for Oumuamua to simply be a weird looking asteroid that’s traveled a long way. “If it were a spacecraft, this tumbling would make it impossible to keep any instruments pointed at the Earth. Of course, one could now say it was an accident, or the aliens did this to deceive us. One can always come up with increasingly implausible suggestions that have no evidence in order to maintain an idea,” explains astronomer Coryn Bailer-Jones.
While the alien debate is ongoing and stronger than ever, it’s safe to remind everyone of the ultimate truth: For better or worse, we don’t know anything.