Just over a year ago, a giant, cigar-shaped object from outside our solar system zipped past the Earth at great speed. Initially declared an asteroid at the time by the scientists at Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS 1 telescope who discovered it and named it Oumuamua (Hawaiian for “a messenger who reaches out from the distant past”), some now believe the object may have come from an alien civilization.
For an asteroid, Oumuamua has some unique features. For one, it’s ten times longer than it is wide. And secondly, the object showed a tendency to rapidly accelerate for no discernible reason. After looking at the evidence, a group of scientists at Harvard produced a study claiming that Oumuamua may have been a solar sail; a type of solar-powered spacecraft. And since the object originated outside our solar system, that would make it an alien spacecraft, possibly sent to investigate Earth.
“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,” the study states. “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.”
Other scientists have dismissed the study, pointing out there’s not enough evidence to make such claims. Still, Oumuamua remains the first object spotted in our solar system that is known to have originated elsewhere, and that makes it pretty cool even if it’s not an alien spacecraft (it totally is, though).