A tiny visitor to our solar system four years ago is still proving quite a mystery.
Just what was Oumuamua?
One group of astronomers from Arizona State University believe they’ve solved a few parts of the riddle: what it’s made of and what it’s shaped like.
Alan Jackson and Steven Desch, the authors of the study, said they believe the 148-foot object is made of frozen nitrogen, and is shaped not like a cigar, as previously thought, but like a cookie, according to an article written by The Associated Press’ aerospace writer, Marcia Dunn.
According to the article, computer models helped the astronomers determine the makeup and shape of the object.
Using a computer model seemed like the way to go, since the object was so small and no one could get a good look at it.
But one scientist, for quite a while now, has had a different view of Oumuamua.
Harvard University’s Avi Loeb believes the object is “more artificial than natural,” according to the article.
“... We cannot assume ‘business as usual,’ as many scientists argue,” Loeb said, according to the article. “If we contemplate ‘something that we had not seen before,’ we must leave the artificial origin hypothesis on the table and collect more evidence on objects from the same class.”
I wholeheartedly agree with Loeb here. We need to scour the solar system for more of these objects that are thought to have originated outside our solar system. Further, comparing the object’s behavior with “things we already know” minimizes our openness to the unknown.
Yes, it would be extraordinary for Oumuamua to be extraterrestrial AND artificial in origin (ie, made by extraterrestrials), and as the saying goes, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
But perhaps it’s time we changed that way of thinking. Perhaps instead of proving that something must be artificial in origin, we open with all possibilities, and then remove each one as more evidence is gathered.
I believe Oumuamua may have in fact been a “solar sail” craft that is extraterrestrial in origin, or perhaps even space junk from a civilization from long ago.
We’ll probably never know for sure.
But it would be worthwhile to closely examine our solar system for things that don’t belong here. Only Oumuamua and a comet, called 21/Borisov, have been determined to be from another solar system. If we looked closer, just what would we discover, and would we discover that fantastic thing that could change our way of thinking about our place in the cosmos?
Joe Malan is presentation editor and astronomy writer for the Enid News & Eagle. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.