The celebrated astrophysicist Stephen Hawking had no doubt that extraterrestrial life existed. “As I get older I am more convinced than ever that we are not alone”He stated during the broadcast of“ Stephen Hawking’s Favorite Places. ”A program that aired in 2016, two years before his death.
Hawking was not only sure of its existence but feared it and compared the destructive potential of the arrival of advanced aliens on Earth with the landing of Christopher Columbus for the native populations of America.
“Perhaps they would become nomads, seeking to conquer and colonize whatever planet they could reach,” he said. “Who knows what the limits would be?”
An elongated special object, baptized as Oumuamua by the Astronomy researcher at the University of Hawaii who spotted it for the first time on October 19, 2017, has brought this great unknown of humanity to the fore: Is there intelligent life beyond our planet? And if so, would they have found us?
It has been the renowned Harvard University physicist Abraham ‘Avi’ Loeb who has once again opened the door to the hypothesis of a possible alien visit by insisting in his new book that the Oumuamua could be a contraption manufactured by an extraterrestrial technological civilization.
Loeb had already defended this controversial theory in a scientific article published in 2018 suggesting that Oumuamua’s unusual shape and surprising acceleration indicated that it might be a “candle of light”, or spaceship powered by sunlight, made by aliens.
Both then and in his new work, “Alien: Humanity at the first sign of intelligent life beyond Earth,” Loeb does not claim to be an alien ship, but stresses that it is the best explanation for its mysterious origin and that scientists should consider the possibility.
Asteroid, comet or spaceship?
Its stretched shape similar to that of a cigar, its variable luminosity or the fact that do not leave behind a trail of gas or dustare some of the characteristics of this mysterious object that have raised the suspicions of the renowned Israeli astronomer that we are not facing an asteroid or comet.
“Once I realized that the object is moving differently than expected, then the question is what gives it the extra push,” Loeb argued the alien hypothesis in an interview with The New Yorker a year ago.
The acceleration of the Oumuamua is a thousand times weaker than solar gravity, which indicates that Oumuamua, if it were an alien ship, would not be being propelled. But Loeb puts it down to it would be a damaged device.
Scientific researcher Héctor Socas-Navarro from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias explains to Euronews that the Oumuamua is only the first of which there is evidence, but it is expected that there are other objects roaming interstellar space and that from time to time one enters our solar system.
The difficulty of detecting them is that they are small and dark, but the new instrumentation that is being developed will make more observations of this type possible in the coming years, says Socas-Navarro: “Oumuamua was the first, then Borisov was discovered and many more are expected to be found in the coming years”.
“The problem with Oumuamua is that we detected it very late, when it was already far away and leaving the solar system,” he says. “So we have little data and many questions, as always when something new is found in science.”
This Spanish scientist, who is also the director of the Museum of Science and the Cosmos of Tenerife, considers that the mysteries surrounding this object do not have to indicate that its origin is extraterrestrial: “We can see a light at night and not know what it is. Will it be a car? A motorcycle? Someone walking around with a flashlight? They could be aliens but it is not what one would think a priori ”.
While Loeb points to the differences, Socas-Navarro looks at the similarities of Oumuamua to some characteristic properties of asteroid comets and finds a possible explanation for two of its most anomalous factors: the elongated shape and the very slight non-gravitational acceleration.
“There are natural processes that can give a rock or piece of ice an elongated shape as it travels through space (assuming that it is indeed elongated) and the acceleration exhibited by Oumuamua is totally analogous to that observed in comets , both in magnitude and direction (away from the Sun) ”.
And as regards theno glue or trace of gas or dust Socas-Navarro says that “it is true that in Oumuamua these gases have not been observed emanating, which Loeb uses as an argument to support his hypothesis, but it is also true that our observations of Oumuamua are very poor and there are explanations for this non-observation, depending on its composition ”.
Michael Kueppers, a scientist at the European Space Agency (ESA), agrees with Socas-Navarro that the lack of data does not support Loeb’s theory that the object is alien technology. Its mysterious morphology, he explains to Euronews, could be explained by its interstellar origin “The composition of an object outside the solar system may be different from a comet in the solar system.”
A message in a bottle or a nail?
Socas-Navarro endorses the international prestige of Loeb and his scientific findings but fears that the theory of the alien ship is professional deformation.
“Many astrophysicists have (myself included) an interest in these searches and we would love to find evidence of other intelligences in the Universe,” says Socas-Navarro. “But, to be honest, we can only say that so far nothing has been found and it is also very difficult for us to do so in the foreseeable future given how vastly empty interstellar space is. “
“When you have a hammer everything looks like nails. Especially when you’ve never seen a nail”.
“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof,” agrees Kueppers.
In the 2019 New Yorker magazine interview, Loeb hypothesized that Oumuamua was a message from the past, and that the civilization that would have sent the spaceship would no longer exist.
“We sent Voyager I and Voyager II ourselves,” he argued.
Then he said that the Oumuamua made him think your walks along the shore of the beach with your daughter. They usually found seashells washed away by the tides and sometimes objects of artificial origin.
The Oumuamua “It could be a message in a bottle, and we should have an open mind”, he concluded.
Loeb says that if they are peaceful we can learn a lot from them.