Despite pushback from some in the scientific community, one researcher at Harvard University is moving forward with the idea that the first interstellar object ever discovered is actually a piece of alien technology.
In his new book, "Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth," Avi Loeb, the chair of Harvard’s department of astronomy, makes the case that 'Oumuamua "was a piece of advanced technology created by a distant alien civilization," according to a statement released by the book's publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
The mysterious object was first discovered in October 2017 but is unlike anything researchers had ever seen before due to its shape as well as its dry surface. It was no longer observable by telescopes as of January 2018, as it hurtled through the solar system on its way back to interstellar space.
'Oumuamua, which means "pathfinder" or "scout" in Hawaiian, was first classified as an asteroid when it was spotted traveling at 196,000 mph but has recently been found more akin to a comet.
The place of origin of the 900-foot-long, cigar-shaped ‘Oumuamua is still a mystery. Some have suggested it could have come from the giant molecular cloud (GMC) W51, 17,000 light-years from Earth.
Others have theorized that it is a comet or an asteroid, while others have suggested it's comprised of hydrogen ice, something almost unheard of in science. In August, Loeb co-authored a paper that challenged the idea 'Oumuamua is made of hydrogen ice.
For now, Loeb, who first published a study in November 2018 that suggested ‘Oumuamua could be "a lightsail of artificial origin," is pressing on with the idea that it came from another intelligent civilization.
"The excess push away from the sun — that was the thing that broke the camel’s back," Loeb said in an interview with the New York Post.
Loeb added that his theory has caused some controversy in the scientific community but noted that there are those who "do not want to discuss the possibility that there are other civilizations out there. They believe we are special and unique. I think it’s a prejudice that should be abandoned."
In November 2018, the researcher who discovered 'Oumuamua, Canadian physicist and astronomer Robert Weryk, said the idea it was from another civilization was just "wild speculation."
The mystery about its exact nature deepened in late 2018, when NASA said it had been looking in 'Ouamumua's direction for two months but did not originally see it.
A second interstellar object, Comet 2I/Borisov, was discovered in August 2019.