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A mysterious cigar-shaped object that flew past Earth could have been an alien spacecraft sent to survey other galaxies, according to Harvard University researchers.
When the object - known as Oumuamua - flew past the sun, astronomers rushed to find out more about it and reviewed data discovering that the object gained speed instead of slowing down.
Oumuamua was first spotted in Hawaii in October last year and is believed to measure 1,312ft (400m). It was moving at 59,030mph when it was first tracked by scientists.
A new paper from researchers at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics toyed with the possibility that the elongated dark-red object, could have been an 'artificial origin'.
Harvard researchers have now said it 'may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth's vicinity by an alien civilisation'.
It was initially classified as a comet but, according to the Express, Shmuel Bialy and Abraham Loeb disagree, saying that it could have been a spacecraft which relies on radiation as a source of power sent to find other signs of galaxies.
Speaking with Universe Today, Mr Loeb said: "We explain the excess acceleration of Oumuamua away from the sun as the result of the force that the sunlight exerts on its surface.
"For this force to explain measured excess acceleration, the object needs to be extremely thin, a fraction of a millimetre in thickness but tens of meters in size.
"This makes the object lightweight for its surface area and allows it to act as a light sail.
"Its origin could be either natural (in the interstellar medium or proto-planetary disks) or artificial (as a probe sent for a reconnaissance mission into the inner region of the solar system)."
The scientists confessed that even if their theory turned out to be true, then there was still the possibility that it was just a 'defunct sail floating under the influence of gravity and stellar radiation'.
FFS. No aliens then.
Loeb wrote: "The alternative is to imagine that Oumuamua was on a reconnaissance mission."
Avi Loeb, chairman of Harvard's astronomy department and co-author of the paper, told NBC News: "It is impossible to guess the purpose behind Oumuamua without more data."
Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI (Search for extraterrestrial intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, California, told Sky News: "It's certainly ingenious to show that an object the size of Oumuamua might be sent by aliens to another star system with nothing but a solar sail for power."
Featured Image Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser
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