The Harvard professor again named asteroid 1I / Oumuamua an alien messenger. A whole book of arguments this time

The Harvard professor again named asteroid 1I / Oumuamua an alien messenger. A whole book of arguments this time
The Harvard professor again named asteroid 1I / Oumuamua an alien messenger. A whole book of arguments this time
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The first ever recorded interstellar object that passed through the solar system - asteroid 1I / Oumuamua - still causes endless controversy both in scientific circles and among amateur astronomers. One of the most ardent supporters of the hypothesis of the man-made origin of this body, Avi Loeb, has published a whole book in which he proves his point of view in detail.

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Visualization of the trajectory of the object 1I / 2017 U1 ʻOumuamua through the solar system / © NASA, JPL-Caltech

According to the eminent scientist, the assumption that Oumuamua was created by intelligent life is the most simple and probable. In his commentary to the press, which is quoted by the portal Phys.org, he appeals to the so-called Occam's razor. Any explanation for the asteroid's nature involves some highly unusual assumption, Loeb said. Either this is the unlikely scenario of hydrogen in the interstellar cloud, or Oumuamua is an incredibly rare type of planetary debris. In any case, it is easier to admit that, most likely, this "envoy from afar" (this is how its name is translated from Hawaiian) is something like a research probe.

In his new book, Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth, Loeb details the story of the 1I / Oumuamua discovery, its unusual properties, and arguments in favor of the man-made hypothesis. It may seem that all this is just an attempt by another "scientific freak" to get his 15 minutes of fame, if not for the context. And in this case, it makes sense, if you do not believe Loeb, then at least look at his arguments with an open mind.

Avi Loeb is far from the very last person in world astronomy. In 1992, together with colleague Andy Gould, he developed a way to search for exoplanets using gravitational microlensing. And in 2013, together with Paolo Pani, he proved that dark matter cannot "hide" in primordial black holes. Loeb has appeared as an author or co-author in several dozen other major scientific papers over the past almost 35 years. Finally, since 1996, he has headed the Department of Astronomy at Harvard and even collaborated with Stephen Hawking. In general, one cannot say that Loeb is an unrecognized genius, rather the opposite. It is also difficult to call him an old man who has lost his mind: the scientist is only 58 years old.

The reason why his point of view is shared by so few supporters, the scientist sees that it is too unorthodox. However, if we abstract from the usual dogmas, it looks at least logical. All physical characteristics of 1I / Oumuamua were determined from the spectrum of sunlight reflected from it and the flicker of this radiation. Even for the most powerful telescopes, this object looked like a point, barely taking up a couple of pixels. So we know very approximately the shape, the nature of rotation and the type of the surface of the interstellar asteroid.

According to Avi Leba, Oumuamua is an apparatus with a solar sail. This explains many of the features of the asteroid's brightness, and the jumps in brightness can be associated with the maneuvering of the spacecraft. Photo: artistic representation of the solar sail project of the Planetary Society / © Planetary Society

The object is definitely not close to a ball or ellipsoid: it is either strongly elongated (like a cigar), or flat and looks like a disk. Oumuamua does not have a coma (flying particles of dust and gas), which means that he is not a comet. But at the same time, there is an anomaly in the trajectory of its movement, which cannot be explained by the gravitational effect.Usually such behavior is demonstrated by comets, from the surface of which ice evaporates and gives the celestial body a small impulse. No significant outflow of matter was recorded from Oumuamua: therefore, the nature of such acceleration is not fully known.

Finally, the calculation of the trajectory of the "envoy from afar" showed that before entering the solar system, he actually stood still. That is, it moved with the speed of rest of the interstellar medium, as if waiting in the wings. According to Loeb, the idea that Oumuamua is an alien exploration probe cannot be overlooked. A certain civilization has left such objects throughout the Galaxy, which, when the star system passes by them, are activated and sent for its analysis. Be that as it may, it is becoming more and more difficult to test this hypothesis in practice: 1I / Oumuamua rushes away from the Earth in order to hide again in distant space.

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