The first interstellar visitor that passed through our solar system remains an elusive mystery. Researchers were puzzled by its unexpected appearance last year. After a few trials and tribulations, most scientists agreed that the object is likely to be a comet.
The dust was almost settled, but researchers from the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics claim that the bizarre object could be in fact an alien probe. While it was first believed to be a comet, Oumuamua has some strange features. One of them is its impressive speed and Harvard researchers believe that no object that can be found in our solar system is capable of reaching the speed at which Oumuamua travels without the release of an intense energy that could have been observed.
The team has released a study that proposes a bold hypothesis. Oumua could be an artificial probe which is powered by a solar sail. Solar sails are currently in development as a low-power propulsion system. The plan is to harness solar radiation in order to continuously travel through space. While the craft would move slowly at first the speed would gradually increase over time.
Since Oumua was already nearing the border of our solar system when it was first spotted an interception mission would have been impossible. It is believed that Oumua has the shape of a cigar and measures close to 120 meters in length. The shape is quite unusual for an asteroid, and it initially lead to the object being categorized as a comet. Upon further inspection, scientists observed that Oumuamua lacks the tell-tale coma of a comet. Additional analysis suggested that Oumuamua is constantly releasing a small amount of gas, which led some to believe that the object could be a low-power comet.
The paper notes that there is no way to find out if Oumuamua does have a solar ail since our current technology is limited. The claim is based on what we currently now about solar sails and the particular orbit on which Oumuamua is traveling.
Alas, we will never know unless it will someday return to our solar system.
Laura grew up in a small town in northern Quebec. She studied chemistry in college, graduated, and married her husband one month later. They were then blessed with two baby boys within the first four years of marriage. Having babies gave their family a desire to return to the old paths – to nourish their family with traditional, homegrown foods; rid their home of toxic chemicals and petroleum products; and give their boys a chance to know a simple, sustainable way of life. They are currently building a homestead from scratch on two little acres in central Texas. There’s a lot to be done to become somewhat self-sufficient, but they are debt-free and get to spend their days living this simple, good life together with their five young children. Laura is an advocate for people with disabilities.