Mar 23, 2021 I Paul Seaburn

Is ‘Oumuamua a Spaceship? This Astronomer Explains Why ETs Would Laugh at the Idea

‘Oumuamua is the mysterious interstellar object that keeps on giving everyone from astrophysicists to the general public something non-political to debate about. From the moment it blew past Earth and was discovered too late to get a good look at it, Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb has been firmly on the “It’s aliens” side of the discussion – pushing the idea that ‘Oumuamua is some sort of ET spacecraft, possibly crewed by robots and pushed around space like a light sail. No signals have been picked up from the space object to confirm this, but Loeb has stuck to his idea. Now comes an astronomer with an interesting argument why there’s no way ‘Oumuamua is an alien craft.

‘Oumuamua1 640x461
‘Oumuamua’s route through our Solar System.

“Given that no compelling conventional model to explain ‘Oumuamua exists (see Jewitt &
Moro-Martin 2020), Bialy & Loeb (2018) suggested that ‘Oumuamua is actually an object constructed by an alien technological civilization that either (1) passed near the Sun quite by accident, or (2) was intentionally sent by (cosmically nearby) aliens to “probe” our Solar System. Our primary focus is to show that (2) is totally implausible. We also briefly comment on option (1), which is equally implausible.”

Ben Zuckerman, an astrophysicist in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, UCLA, makes it clear in the opening paragraphs of his new pre-published paper, “‘Oumuamua Is Not a Probe Sent to our Solar System by an Alien Civilization,” that he strongly disagrees with Loeb on the nature of ‘Oumuamua, the first known interstellar/extrasolar object. Zuckerman acknowledges the scientific effort Loeb and Dr. Shmuel Bialy put into developing their theory, but he claims that just because an advanced civilization has the technology for space travel, that doesn’t mean they need to use it … and quotes “distinguished physicist Freeman Dyson” to build his case:

“The problem of interstellar travel is a problem of motivation and not of physics.”

In his mind, Zuckerman believes intelligent civilizations are intelligent enough to figure out that they don’t need to develop expensive spaceships.

“We demonstrate that the accomplishments that can be achieved with large space telescopes/interferometers in the alien’s planetary system will completely quench any motivation for construction and launch of an ‘Oumuamua-like probe.”

In other words, ETs can watch or spy on us just fine with advanced telescopes. Look at how much we’re learning about Proxima Centauri b, the nearest exoplanet to Earth – as our own telescopes get more sophisticated. He then attacks another tenet of Loeb – that ‘Oumuamua’s visit was a rare occurrence, which Loeb claims means it was intentional or lucky. Zuckerman counters with the argument that the presence of one interstellar object means there’s a lot more – we’re just now figuring out how to spot and identify them. Finally, he points to the speed at which ‘Oumuamua flew by was far from enough time for an ET probe to get a good look at Earth and everything else in the solar system, especially when compared to years-long direct staring at by a technologically advanced telescope.

Hubble 640x360
Hubble Space Telescope

Do you agree with Zuckerman? Universe Today looks at a specific intelligent civilization – us – and points out that, while we have advanced telescopes, we continue to send probes to close planets, remote planets and beyond on flyby missions … even though we can see them very well with telescopes – or will see them soon with new telescopes. The answer is human nature and the human desire to see and touch close up. Is human nature really ‘ET’ nature? Do ETs have the same desire to get “up close and personal” with us?

More food for thought for the time when we can get “up close and personal” again with family and friends and debate the great subjects bothering us. Thanks, ‘Oumuamua!

Paul Seaburn
Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

Join MU Plus+ and get exclusive shows and extensions & much more! Subscribe Today!