The Harvard paper was criticized and perhaps it does show a lot of flaws and it may be weak. The fact that some people dared to even propose the possibility of something made by an extraterrestrial intelligence in the scientific community, has to be applauded.
We are at the point in history where we will find evidence of extraterrestrial life any time soon. It will happen in our lifetime. Even if it’s a tiny microbe or a fossil of that microbe, it will change the way we look at our universe. It will change our place in our universe. It will change everything. Maybe we all are secretly are afraid of the consequences of that. One day we will have to face them. The discovery of ‘Oumuamua however is not that day.
What do we know?
‘Oumuamua has been discovered in October 2017 and has since been the subject of speculations. It has been anything from alien spaceship to comet but fact is that we still haven’t got a clue. We do have a lot to say about it.
What we do know about this object is that it is the first interstellar object traveling through our solar system that we have been able to detect and follow. It’s estimated that several interstellar objects are travelling relatively close to the Earth but they are difficult to spot with current technology. Further we know that it’s cigar shaped, has a reddish, smooth surface and the latest observation estimated it to be between 100 and 400 meters long. It’s tumbling through space rather than smoothly rotating. It has also been accelerating while passing through our solar system.
This all made way for many speculations. At first it was classified as a comet but it lacked a trail of dust while passing our sun which a comet would have. Then it was classified as an asteroid. But that would not explain the acceleration ‘Oumuamua made while passing the sun. So, it was put back in the comet section. With the sun heating up the object it must have created gas after all and boosted its speed. Maybe we just didn’t see the trail.
Due to the peculiar shape and the rather unusual tumbling, it was also quickly speculated that this object could be an alien spacecraft gone adrift. Also the smooth edges fueled this speculation and when it was also known that the object had accelerated, only added to this theory. It’s hard to say what ‘Oumuamua is really made of. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence but when we don’t even have ordinary evidence to confirm an ordinary claim, the roads to extraterrestrial explanation are wide open. And you can’t blame those who look into a solution of alien origin.
It’s hard to say what ‘Oumuamua really is. The Spitzer telescope has tried to follow it as long as was possible but in order to really investigate what “the first distant messenger” (what ‘Oumuamua roughly means in Hawaiian) really is. We know it’s interstellar as it travels so fast that it wasn’t caught in our own sun’s orbit. But in order to know more we needed more time. Therefore the object might be a highly debatable visitor forever but it has taught us to be on a look out for more of these visitors and study them more closely. We now know what we can roughly expect.
We don’t know
Fact is, we really don’t know what ‘Oumuamua is. It’s natural to stay within your own field. Astrophysicists will look at their knowledge and search for an explanation in what they know. But it’s not that strange to think out of the box either. The interstellar visitor doesn’t tick all the boxes we know. There are several things weird about it and we can’t say for certain what made the object accelerate. It made even researchers of the prestigious university of Harvard think of the unthinkable. What if this is an alien spaceship? Advanced technology can fail as well. It could have gone adrift. Maybe from a species long extinct for all we know. We don’t know how old the object is.
What I think ‘Oumuamua is? I have no idea. Do I want it to be an alien spacecraft? Of course I do, how exciting would that be? I want to believe. And it ticks a couple of boxes of that theory. But it also ticks some that would suggest that it doesn’t. It shows that we assume we know a lot about our universe but in reality we don’t. That’s what make these discoveries so exciting, it’s something new, unknown.