A new paper by researchers at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics raises the possibility that the elongated dark-red object, which is 10 times as long as it is wide and traveling at speeds of 196,000 miles per hour, might have an "artificial origin".
The object named "Omului" (Oumuamua), which in Hawaiian means "messenger that comes from the distant past", was first spotted in October 2017, the telescope Pan-STARRS 1 in Hawaii. The excess acceleration of Oumuamua was detected at multiple times, ruling out an impulsive kick due to a break up of the object.
Loeb told NBC News that the idea that Oumuamua could be alien-made was "purely scientific and evidence-based".
If Oumuamua is evidence of an alien civilization seeking out life beyond its home solar system, we may never know. Observers dismissed the acceleration as the result of a release of gas from within the rock, but astronomers Shmuel Bialy and Abraham Loeb are the whole matter, reasoning that if Oumuamua had merely been a comet undergoing outgassing, the release would have set the object to spinning. "Lightsails with similar dimensions have been designed and constructed by our own civilization", an excerpt from the paper read. The study suggests that if 'Oumuamua rotates in its highest rotational energy state, "it should be extremely oblate (pancake-like)". "Technology light sails may be used to transport cargo between planets or between the stars". "But we should examine anything that enters the solar system from interstellar space in order to infer the true nature of Oumuamua or other objects of its mysterious population".
Of course, the pair aren't claiming that Oumuamua's definitely of alien origin.More news: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah statue ridiculed by football fans
"Why send a spacecraft which is doing this?" he said. Not all shells are the same, and similarly only a fraction of the interstellar objects might be technological debris of alien civilizations.
"This is the only other explanation we could come up with", said Avi Loeb, chair of Harvard's department of astronomy.
Oumuamua has left our solar system and is no longer capable of being seen - but as Loeb points out, the existence of Oumuamua suggests there are others like it yet to be found.
Multiple telescopes focused on the object for three nights to determine what it was before it moved out of sight.