You may have heard last year that some scientists thought an interstellar object that entered our solar system was, in fact, an alien visitor. Spoiler alert: it’s probably not.
The idea caught a lot of media attention because the scientists were two Harvard astrophysicists who said the object, called Oumuamua or “first time visitor from far away,” could be an alien craft from space. Professor Abraham (Avi) Loeb, the Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science at Harvard and a member of the team, defended the theory last year.
“I prefer to adopt the maxim of Sherlock Holmes that if you rule out the impossible, whatever remains, as improbable as it is, must be the truth,” Loeb said at the time.
The Harvard scientists also said the object could be debris from a craft.
Last year, a Harvard paper alleged that it was an alien spacecraft sent to investigate Earth.
The theory is based on the object’s “excess acceleration,” or its unexpected boost in speed as it traveled through and ultimately out of our solar system in January.
“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 the paper’s authors, suggesting that the object could be propelled by solar radiation.
Well, as it turns out, a new study debunks the alien visitation theory.
But a new analysis of all the existing data about ‘Oumuamua was published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy. The research suggests that the interstellar object is natural in origin and not an alien spacecraft…
“We have never seen anything like ‘Oumuamua in our solar system. It’s really a mystery still,” said Matthew Knight, associate research scientist at the University of Maryland’s Department of Astronomy. “But our preference is to stick with analogs we know, unless or until we find something unique. The alien spacecraft hypothesis is a fun idea, but our analysis suggests there is a whole host of natural phenomena that could explain it.”
‘Oumuamua spins like a bottle, appearing to accelerate on its path although there is no visible evidence of shedding gas.
There are several different natural explanations listed in the paper, including that it was ejected from a system with a gas giant, but that’s not really the big takeaway. The most important thing is that there are any natural explanations, because any of those are more likely than aliens.