New York: The first interstellar immigrant "Oumuamua" discovered in our solar system may have been an alien probe sent to investigate Earth, and not a comet as previously thought, a new study by Harvard scientists has suggested.
The study noted the possibility that the elongated dark-red object, which is 10 times as long as it is wide and travelling at speeds of 315,364 km per hour (kmh), might have an "artificial origin", Xinhua news agency reported.
"Oumuamua may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization," according to the paper forthcoming in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
"Oumuamua showed unusual features since its discovery. These features make Oumuamua weird, belonging to a class of objects that we had never seen before," said Abraham Loeb, from the varsity.
"Oumuamua deviates from a trajectory that is solely dictated by the Sun's gravity. This could have been the result of cometary outgassing, but there is no evidence for a cometary tail around it.
"The excess acceleration of Oumuamua was detected at multiple times, ruling out an impulsive kick due to a break up of the object," he said.
Oumuamua, which means "a messenger from afar arriving first" in Hawaiian, was discovered on October 19, 2017.
In the new study, scientists researched on extra force exerted on Oumuamua by sunlight. In order for it to be effective, Oumuamua needs to be less than a millimetre in thickness, like a sail.
This led us to suggest that it may be a light-sail produced by an alien civilization, Loeb said.
"The evidence about Oumuamua is not conclusive but interesting. I will be truly excited once we have conclusive evidence," he said.