Astronomers in Canada question the evidence behind an impressive new paper by Harvard University researchers suggesting that a mysterious cigar-shaped object found last year may have been an alien detector deliberately sent to Earth.
The document, recently submitted to the Astrophysical Journal Letters by astronomy at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, suggests that the object known as "Oumuamua" – which means a remote messenger in Hawaii – has an artificial origin.
"Oumuamua can be a fully operational catheter deliberately sent to Earth near an extraterrestrial civilization," the authors of the book write.
Despite the enthusiasm surrounding the paper's claims, Paul Delaney, professor of astronomy and physics at York University of Toronto, and astrophysicist Alan Jackson at the University of Toronto's Planetary Sciences Center, expressed doubts about their accuracy.
"Let's not go too haunted here," Delaney told CTV's The Morning on Wednesday. "There is a suggestion from two astronomers that this may be of artificial origin. I think they are getting a bit."
Harvard researchers argue that the elongated interstellar object – believed to be the first known visitor that came out of our solar system – is not an asteroid or a comet because it has no features that distinguish these kinds of space rocks.
For example, Oumuamua is not bound by the gravitational pull of the sun, like other objects in our solar system, and it seems to accelerate at a different speed.
"He created what we call a non-gravity signature," explains Delaney. "That is, as he ran through the inner solar system and through the exit, he moved in a way that is not just explained by his gravitational signature from the sun."
Astronomers have suggested that the incredible speed of the enigmatic object – NASA said it was recorded from the inner solar system up to 112,000 km / h – may be the result of "exhausting," the way comets travel in space .
"The object could have been exhausted as a comet." If you have a balloon and you open the end, it's leaving, very quickly, because of this pressure from gas, "said Delaney.
However, as Harvard researchers and Delaney have also recognized, astronomers have not been able to accurately identify Oumuamua as a comet because it does not have a tail or a "coma" around it.
Uncertainty has led to a rash guess about what the subject may be and where it came from, Delaney said.
When asked if there was a chance that Oumuamua is a lightweight cloth – a piece of technology used to push the spacecraft by harnessing solar energy from the sun – developed by an unknown intelligence, Delaney replied yes.
"Is it a chance?" "Is it a probability?" No, "he said. "Why it should be, it should be incredibly wide and very, very thin. We have no evidence to show that we actually saw what we saw."
Because astronomers could only study the subject and record data for about six to eight weeks when they first detected the internal solar system in March 2017, Delaney said there are still many unknowns.
"We chose this object after the closest approach to Earth and the closest approach to the sun," he said. "We could not have seen it for a long time, we have not got any definitive pictures of it, it was very small."
The image that accompanies research and articles about Oumuamua is just an artist's performance of what it may look like, Delaney explained.
The astronomer of the University of York is not alone with his skepticism about the research work.
When Jackson, the astrophysicist from the University of Toronto, was asked about it, he relied on the words of the renowned American astronomer Carl Sagan.
"Carl Sagan once said," extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, "and this document is clearly incomplete in evidence, no extraordinary evidence," Jackson said.
In this case, Delaney said that Harvard researchers do not have enough "excellent evidence" to support the surprising claim that aliens may have sent a spacecraft on Earth.
"It's not there, it's not that strange," he said. "It's a little speculation."