Mysterious interstellar comet not an alien probe, says the scientist who discovered it

Oumuamua isn't behaving like any other comet and a Harvard scientist is suggesting it's an alien probe, but the astronomer who discovered it says that's just "wild speculation."

Robert Weryk, who studied at Western University, discovered the comet while working in Hawaii last year

This artist’s impression shows the first interstellar asteroid, 'Oumuamua. Observations from ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile and other observatories around the world show that this unique object was travelling through space for millions of years before its chance encounter with our star system. It seems to be a dark red highly-elongated metallic or rocky object, about 400 metres long, and is unlike anything normally found in the Solar System. (M. Kornmesser/ESO)

Oumuamua isn't behaving like any other comet and a Harvard scientist is suggesting it's an alien probe, but the astronomer who discovered it says that's just "wild speculation."

Robert Weryk discovered the strange interstellar object in 2017 at the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy. 

"I think it's a remnant from another solar system. It's just something that happened to run into us, and we were very lucky to have been operating the telescope that night and looking in that direction," Weryk told CBC's Afternoon Drive. 

"It's been theoretically predicted for decades but we've never seen one. Until we see another one, there are a lot of questions that we just can't answer." 

But the question of whether the cigar-shaped object is an alien probe, as suggested by Harvard scientists Abraham Leob and Shmuel Bialy? 

"Honestly, that's a bit of wild speculation," Weryk said. 

Leob is the astronomy chair at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics and Bialy is a postdoctoral fellow there. Their paper was submitted to the Astrophysical Journal Letters. 

They hypothesize that Oumuamua​ "may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth's vicinity by an alien civilization."

It's from outside our solar system, and acts differently than anything we've seen before, but there's a less out-of-this-world explanation, Weryk said. 
Mysterious movements show Oumuamua is a comet not an asteroid

"There's a maximum speed that you can be travelling to be bound gravitationally by the sun. When we first saw this object, it was travelling faster than that, so we know for a fact that it's from outside our solar system. We decided that it was a comet that had a bit of outgassing that wasn't visible from the ground, which is why it didn't appear to be a comet," he said. 

"(The Harvard researchers) decided to focus on another aspect of that, that it's an alien space craft and that it has a solar sail type material that's causing the non-gravitational trajectory. But we actually believe that's not true based on the data we obtained." 

Weryk's work in Hawaii focuses on looking for asteroids that pose a hazard to the earth. 

"We're hoping that during that search, one of them happens to be another interstellar object," he said. 

Finding another such object would allow scientists to collect more data and probe the object to get more answers. 


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