Sci­en­tists push­ing back against Har­vard ‘alien space­craft’ the­ory

Kuwait Times - - Front Page -

TAMPA: 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 civ­i­liza­tion.”

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 said via email 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 aren’t 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, Belfast. “It has al­ready been shown that its ob­served char­ac­ter­is­tics are con­sis­tent with a comet-like body ejected from an­other star sys­tem,” he told AFP. “And some of the ar­gu­ments in this study are based on num­bers with large un­cer­tain­ties.”

Katie Mack, a well-known as­tro­physi­cist at North Carolina State, also took is­sue with the alien hype. “The thing you have to un­der­stand is: sci­en­tists are per­fectly happy to pub­lish an out­landish idea if it has even the tini­est sliver of a chance of not be­ing wrong,” she wrote on Twit­ter. “But un­til ev­ery other pos­si­bil­ity has been ex­hausted dozen times over, even the au­thors prob­a­bly don’t be­lieve it.” — AFP

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