Sci­en­tists push back on Har­vard ‘alien space­craft’ the­ory

The Sun (Malaysia) - - NEWS WITHOUT BORDERS -

WASH­ING­TON: A sci­en­tific pa­per led by two re­searchers at Har­vard Uni­ver­sity made a splash this week by claim­ing that a ci­gar-shaped rock zoom­ing through our so­lar sys­tem may have been sent by aliens.

The re­searchers noted in a pre-print of the ar­ti­cle that it was an “ex­otic sce­nario”, but that “Ou­mua­mua may be a fully op­er­a­tional probe sent in­ten­tion­ally to Earth vicin­ity by an alien civil­i­sa­tion”.

Ou­mua­mua, the first in­ter­stel­lar ob­ject known to en­ter our so­lar sys­tem, ac­cel­er­ated faster away from the Sun than ex­pected, hence the no­tion that some kind of ar­ti­fi­cial sail that runs on sun­light – known as a light sail – may have helped push it through space.

“Cur­rently there is an un­ex­plained phe­nom­ena, namely, the ex­cess ac­cel­er­a­tion of Ou­mua­mua, which we show may be ex­plained by the force of ra­di­a­tion pres­sure from the sun,” co-au­thor and Har­vard as­tro­physi­cist Sh­muel Bialy told AFP via email on Tues­day.

“How­ever this re­quires the body to have a very large sur­face and be very thin, which is not en­coun­tered in na­ture.”

Their sugges­tion of an alien force at work went vi­ral.

But other astron­omy ex­perts are not buy­ing it.

“Like most sci­en­tists, I would love there to be con­vinc­ing ev­i­dence of alien life, but this isn’t it,” said Alan Fitzsim­mons, an as­tro­physi­cist at Queens Uni­ver­sity in Belfast.

“It has al­ready been shown that its ob­served char­ac­ter­is­tics are con­sis­tent with a comet-like body ejected from an­other star sys­tem.

“And some of the ar­gu­ments in this study are based on num­bers with large un­cer­tain­ties,” he said.

“Sci­en­tists are per­fectly happy to pub­lish an out­landish idea if it has even the tini­est sliver of a chance of not be­ing wrong,” North Carolina State Uni­ver­sity as­tro­physi­cist Katie Mack said.

The other co-au­thor, Avi Loeb, chair­man of Har­vard’s astron­omy de­part­ment, said hu­man­ity may never know more about the mys­te­ri­ous ob­ject, since it has trav­elled far away and is not head­ing back. – AFP

This handout im­age re­leased by the Eu­ro­pean South­ern Ob­ser­va­tory on Nov 20, 2017 shows an artist’s im­pres­sion of Ou­mua­mua.

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