Avi Loeb, a Harvard astronomer, has long theorized that the strange object known as ‘Oumuamua may have been an alien spacecraft.
Loeb suggested that ‘Oumuamua was a probe sent by an extraterrestrial civilization in a paper from 2021. However, the claim about Oumuamua was recently challenged by an international team of experts in a study.
The central point of Loeb’s theory was that ‘Oumuamua was a solar sail that would let a spacecraft travel across space using the low pressure of solar radiation. However, the international team, led by Shangfei Liu, an astronomer at Sun Yat-sen University in Zhuhai, China, has defied the explanation.
In their study, which has been cleared for publication in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, the researchers found that “‘Oumuamua is unlikely to be a light sail. If it exists, the dynamics of an intruding light sail have distinct observational signatures, which can be quantitatively identified and analyzed with our methods in future surveys.”
However, Loeb isn’t giving up on his reasoning either.
“There are a few points that the authors have overlooked,” he told The Daily Beast this week.
“If ‘Oumuamua had a light sail with a large, flat surface, it would have reflected more light than what we saw originating from the strange object in our limited observations,” the international team of specialists argued.
“If it was a light sail, the brightness variation should be much larger,” Shangfei told Beast.
On the other hand, Loeb claims that the sail doesn’t have to be flat. According to his own research, it might have been a different-shaped light sail reflecting light in surprising ways.
In fact, the researcher stated that “‘Oumuamua may not be a sail at all, but rather a surface layer torn apart from a bigger object.” To put it into perspective, it means that a piece of extraterrestrial space junk might have passed through our star system.
It’s possible that the object was only a comet roaring through space while releasing gas.
Unfortunately, coming across an interstellar object like ‘Oumuamua is quite uncommon. However, as Shangfei and his colleagues indicate in their research, “with the support of a great quantity of highly accurate observation data in the future,” we might be able to track it down eventually.