This was not sent by aliens to save us

Sci­en­tists have been puz­zling over the ci­gar-shaped comet that’s dubbed ‘Ou­mua­mua FULL STORY AT THES­TAR.COM/WORLD

StarMetro Vancouver - - CANADA & WORLD - Sarah Ka­plan

You may have seen a head­line re­cently claim­ing that the in­ter­stel­lar comet that vis­ited our so­lar sys­tem last fall could ac­tu­ally be a space­craft sent by an alien civ­i­liza­tion.

I’m here to re­port that no aliens are com­ing. At least, not this time.

Sci­en­tists have been puz­zling over the ci­gar-shaped comet, dubbed ‘Ou­mua­mua af­ter the Hawai­ian word for “mes­sen­ger,” since it was first spot­ted swoop­ing past the plan­ets at an odd an­gle. Its speed was so blis­ter­ing and tra­jec­tory so strange that sci­en­tists con­cluded it had to be a vis­i­tor from an­other star. Sub­se­quent ob­ser­va­tions by dozens of tele­scopes in ev­ery wave­length of the elec­tro­mag­netic spec­trum sug­gested it was an in­ert (if ex­traor­di­nary) space rock — dense,

as pre­sid­ing judge Rainer Brack­hane asked him ques­tions, an­swer­ing in slow, concise sen­tences.

Re­hbo­gen is ac­cused of work­ing as a guard at the camp east of Danzig, which is to­day the Pol­ish city of Gdansk, from June 1942 to about early Septem­ber 1944.

There is no ev­i­dence link­ing him to a spe­cific crime, but more than 60,000 This artist’s im­pres­sion shows the first known in­ter­stel­lar as­teroid, ‘Ou­mua­mua.

dust­less and red­dened by ir­ra­di­a­tion from cos­mic rays.

Just to be on the safe side, as­tronomers at the Green Bank Te­le­scope in West Vir­ginia specif­i­cally lis­tened for sig­nals from any elec­tronic de­vice that might be at­tached

peo­ple were killed at Stut­thof and pros­e­cu­tors ar­gue that as a guard, he was an ac­ces­sory to at least hun­dreds of those deaths.

The re­tired civil ser­vant showed no re­ac­tion as pros­e­cu­tor An­dreas Bren­del read the ac­cu­sa­tions against him, de­tail­ing the hor­rific way pris­on­ers at Stut­thof were killed. Some were given lethal in­jec­tions of gaso­line or

to the ob­ject. They didn’t hear a peep.

But then a pre­print of a re­search pa­per to be pub­lished in the Astro­phys­i­cal Jour­nal ap­peared on­line this week, pos­ing an “ex­otic sce­nario” in which the ‘Ou­mua­mua was a

phe­nol di­rectly to their hearts, shot or starved. Oth­ers were forced out­side in win­ter with­out clothes un­til they died of ex­po­sure, or put to death in the gas cham­ber.

“Any­one who heard the screams from out­side the gas cham­ber would have known that peo­ple were fight­ing for their lives,” Bren­del said.

Read the full story at thes­

so­lar-pow­ered probe built by an alien civ­i­liza­tion.

There’s no ac­tual ev­i­dence to sup­port this idea. In­deed, the ma­jor­ity of the study is de­voted to ex­am­in­ing how ra­di­a­tion pres­sure from the sun might push on a nat­u­ral ob­ject and con­trib­ute to ‘Ou­mua­mua’s un­ex­plained ac­cel­er­a­tion. This phe­nom­e­non is the ba­sis for a pro­posed method of space­craft propul­sion called light sails, which I guess is how we get from “whoa, weird rock” to “it might be aliens!” The study au­thors jus­tify their spec­u­la­tion by ar­gu­ing that the prob­a­bil­ity of an or­di­nary comet in­ter­cept­ing our so­lar sys­tem af­ter be­ing ejected by its home star is very small.

As as­tro­physi­cist Katie Mack pointed out on Twit­ter, com­ing up with far-out ex­pla­na­tions for slightly strange phe­nom­ena is one of as­tronomers’ favourite par­lour games. (Re­mem­ber the alien megas­truc­ture that turned out to be a star swathed in dust?) Jo­hann Re­hbo­gen says he didn’t know of the killings at Stut­thof.


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