Oumuamua: Earth's First Interstellar Visitor
When Hawaiian astronomers first discovered Oumuamua they thought it was a comet, then an asteroid, but now the International Astronomical Union has reclassified it as something entirely different, an interstellar object. The astronomers from Haleakala Observatory on the island of Maui, who discovered it named it 'Oumuamua, which means "a messenger from afar arriving first," which has been described by some as a possible scout vessel.
Researchers believe Oumuamua is made of ice with a carbon-rich surface. It is about a quarter of a mile long, 260ft wide and currently travelling at 196,000mph or 26 km/s. The Breakthrough Listen research program has even investigated whether Oumuamua is an alien space ship by scanning the object for life forms with the Green Bank Telescope. No intelligent signals have been identified so far, though further observations are planned.
A new study suggests is comes from a two star system, probably from the nearby "Pleiades moving group" of young stars, also known as the "Local Association." It was likely ejected from its home solar system and sent out to travel interstellar space.
Now, one astronomer claims that the space rock could be an alien spacecraft with broken engines that is tumbling through our solar system.
Dr Jason Wright from Penn State University suggests that a broken alien spacecraft would move in exactly the same way as the interstellar comet.
Writing in his blog, Dr Wright, an associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State University, says: 'Such derelict craft would, if they are not travelling so fast that they escape the Galaxy, eventually 'thermalize' with the stars and end up drifting around like any other interstellar comet or asteroid.
'In fact, since they (presumably) no longer have attitude control, one would expect that they would eventually begin to tumble, and if they are very rigid that tumbling might distinguish them from ordinary interstellar asteroids… and in fact, just because their propulsion is broken doesn't mean that their radio transmitters would be broken.'
Dr Wright suggests that the object could be a 'Von Neumann probe' - a theoretical self-replicating spacecraft that visits star systems.