Scientists are now arguing about whether Oumuamua was sent by aliens

An artist's depiction of Oumuamua the first detected interstellar object

Just when we thought the question was settled for good, here we are again: discussing whether the tumbling, cigar-shaped object known as 'Oumuamua that came crashing through our solar system late a year ago is an alien spacecraft.

Scientists have been trying to figure out what the 1,312ft (400m) object named Oumuamua might be after it was first spotted by a telescope in Hawaii in October 2017. The excess acceleration of Oumuamua was detected at multiple times, ruling out an impulsive kick due to a break up of the object.

"It is impossible to guess the goal behind Oumuamua without more data", Avi Loeb, chairman of Harvard's astronomy department and a co-author of the paper, told NBC News in an email.

"Considering an artificial origin, one possibility is that 'Oumuamua is a lightsail, floating in interstellar space as a debris from an advanced technological equipment". They have highlighted that light-sails with similar dimensions have already been designed and built by our own civilisation. "Technology light sails may be used to transport cargo between planets or between the stars".

But the object's unusual trajectory, high speed, and puzzling way it is speeding up as it moves through the solar system, have caused researchers to consider other possibilities. "Namely that it's a comet or asteroid from afar".

The cigar-shaped rock is now speeding through the galaxy and is the first known interstellar object to enter our solar system.

That shape would allow solar radiation to push the vessel along and explains the object's unusual acceleration.

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It is known that comets are accelerated through a process known as "degassing" when the sun heats the icy surface, releasing the molten gas. But 'Oumuamua didn't have a "coma", the atmosphere and dust that surrounds comets as they melt.

The Harvard scientists speculated that solar radiation hitting a solar sail could explain why the mysterious object started moving faster.

But not everyone agrees that the "cigar-shaped" space object shows signs of extraterrestrial intelligence.

"Why send a spacecraft which is doing this?" he said.

So far, there is no obvious origin for 'Oumuamua. "Bailer-Jones" paper on possible origin sites for 'Oumuamua was accepted by the Astrophysical Journal in September.

The latest theory shedding more light on the nature of Oumuamua comes from a study carried out by two astronomers from the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Oumuamua has left our solar system and is no longer capable of being seen - but as Loeb points out, the existence of Oumuamua suggests there are others like it yet to be found.

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