Why can not we cry "aliens" about this interstellar space scale just now


The head of the Harvard Department of Astronomy believes that there is a possibility that a strange object that has visited our solar system from the interstellar space is an alien probe sent by a distant civilization. He and his colleague presented their idea in a newspaper that was published this week and analyzed what could have been a mysterious space object that would distract media frenzy.

But let's breathe before we look forward to crying "strangers." One idea about what this subject is You can it would not be the only explanation, and many scientists still argue that natural interpretation is more credible. Adding a little context, one of the scientists making this "exotic" claim, is currently preparing an initiative to search for extraterrestrial life in a deep space by sending a probe from Earth to other star systems.

The article that took care of everyone was written by Harvard Astrophysicists Avi Loeb and Shmuel Bialy, who tried to describe some strange behavior revealed by the Oumuamua Space Scale. Remembered last October, Oumuamua is a mysterious object that passes through our solar system, which comes from some unknown deep space. Objects like this one all the time think that they transmit through our solar system, but this is the first exo-comet or comet outside our cosmic neighborhood, which we have ever detected.

In addition to being a rare find, "Oumuamua" is somewhat bizarre. Astronomers expected this visitor to be an ice comet surrounded by a trail of gas and dust when approaching the Sun. But `Oumuamua seems to be missing such a cloud, making it more like asteroid, mostly made of stone and metal. So no one was fully convinced what this thing is – a comet, an asteroid, or something completely new. After analyzing the Oumuamuo orbit, scientists from the European Space Agency observed that the object was accelerating, more than it should have been if it were only in contact with the gravity of planets and Sun in our solar system. They found that "Oumuamua comet; the Sun is likely to heat the ice in the building and generate gas, which ensures an additional increase in speed.

Chart showing the "Oumuamue path through the solar system.
ESO / K. Meech et al.

However, Loeb and Bialy are skeptical about this "outgassing" claim, mainly because no one was able to observe gas and dust coming from `Oumuamua. They also point to recent research from another laboratory, which is still being examined by other scientists, which suggests that, if the gas came out of this subject, it would change how the scale revolved – something that was not observed. "This excludes the possibility of being a comet," says Loeb Verge.

That's why they decided to look at another possible explanation of the acceleration: Could "Oumuamu become faster than light from the Sun?" The light of our Sun can actually force objects to give them a slight push. Perhaps this phenomenon is enough to explain why `Oumuamua is getting faster. However, if this mechanism – known as the pressure of solar radiation – is to blame for the extra speed, the Oumuamua must be very light and super thin, only one millimeter thick.

This gave Loeb the idea that "Oumuamua" could be what is known as a light sail, a thin artificial sail that drives in the sunlight. And this light sail may actually be sent here intentionally. "The more exotic scenario is that Oumuamua can be a complete operational probe deliberately on Earth close to alien civilization, "he and Bialy write in his article.

Loeb has been searching for light sails for many years. He is the president of the Advisory Board for Breakthrough Starshot, an initiative that calls for the sending of super-thin space spacecraft into an interstellar space powered by a giant laser. Loeb acknowledges that the work with Starshot gave him the idea that "Oumuamu can be a foreign light sail." Our imagination is limited to what we know, "he says." And the fact that I am involved in a project that uses a light sail, he enabled me to encourage me to think about it. "

Loeb says he welcomes other explanations that do not include foreigners, but he is pretty sure his idea is correct. "I can not think of another explanation for the unusual acceleration" Oumuamua, "he says.

But other scientists argue that natural interpretation can still be used here. Just because we have not seen gas and dust coming from `Oumuamu 'does not mean that this material is not there. Scientists had only about two weeks to observe this object at the end of October before being too far away from Earth and becoming incredibly dazzling to observe earth telescopes. The Hubble Space Telescope was at that time the only tool we had to observe "Oumuamua" by December, and the observatory mostly monitored its orbit around the Sun.

So it's perfectly possible that the telescopes we watched "Oumuamua" simply could not see the materials that run from the building. Maybe because we did not observe the object in the right kind of light, or some key telescopes were not available to view this special spacecraft. "Due to the time and the time with which telescopes on the planet, we could not see dust," says astronomer Michele Bannister, who studied "Oumuamua at the Royal University of Belfast, but was not involved in this study, says Verge.

Comet ISON and its tail gas and dust, as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope
Image: NASA

It is also possible that `Oumuamua just does not emit much dust, which makes it difficult to notice. "You can fit this with a simple comet object," says Bannister. "It's not allowed to emit as much dust as normal comets." The comets in our solar system usually release countless microscopic dust particles reflecting the sunlight that can be seen from the Earth. If `Oumuamua 'does not have much dust on its surface then it can only release gas, which is easier to miss. And there are examples of these types of objects in our own solar system. "We have comets we know – the rare comets to be said – in our solar system that emit so little dust that you need to look for gas to actually see the result," said Alan Fitzsimmons, an astronomer at Queen's Hospital. with University Belfast, who wrote an article explaining how Oumuamua could be a comet, says Verge.

Normally astronomers consider that it is good practice to exhaust all possible natural explanations of the observed phenomenon before resorting to foreign arguments. There is a quote by popular astronomer Carl Sagan that many astronomers resort to strangers being frustrated as an explanation: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." Most agree that there is no extraordinary evidence to support the request for a light sail. "Every finding we have in this field has a lot of uncertainty because we have very little data on it," says Katie Mack, a theoretical astrophysicist at the University of North Carolina. Verge. If anything, it seems that this extraterrestrial artefact is out of control, as it chaotic falls through our solar system. "If it's a space spacecraft, it was Brexit of space spacecraft, which was perfect," says Fitzsimmons.

However, sometimes astronomers write wild theories, such as this, so that those in the community can disclose the claim and choose it. "Sometimes you write paper about something you do not believe is truly true, just to put it there," says Mack. Loeb, on the other hand, does not want people to discredit their idea simply because they would be inflammatory. "We can not reject this option simply because some people do not want to hear this, he says." The point is, science should not be prejudiced. Our conclusions should be based on evidence, data and not prejudice. "

But when aliens refer, this is usually an explanation that gets the most attention. A similar situation occurred in 2015, when astronomers proposed the idea that strange behavior by a distant star could explain foreign megastructures in a star star. The theory, of which many are skeptical, has become so apparent that the star eventually became the "star of the megastructure" star.

Of course there is a chance. But foreigners are very bold claims that they make when natural explanations are still on the table. "I understand the excitement and as a scientist I can not sit here and say that I have 100% evidence that this is a natural subject," says Fitzsimmons. "Only observation can be matched with a natural object."

And this could be a problem when we are actually do it they find signs of a stranger one day. Astronomers are constantly discovering new planets outside our solar system, and we are working on a more sophisticated technology that focuses on the atmospheres of these worlds. One day we can find solid evidence that life exists in a deep space, but it can be difficult for people to swallow it if they think that foreigners are already discovered. "I do not want people to think that we've seen this before it actually happens," says Mack. "I want people not to be super cynical about claims about aliens, when we actually have some real evidence."

Mary Beth Griggs contributed to this report.


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