Evidence of aliens? What to make of research and reporting on 'Oumuamua, our visitor from space

phys.org | 11/16/2018 | Staff
Zorra (Posted by) Level 4
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As an astrophysicist, probably the most common question I get asked is: "Are we alone in the universe and do aliens exist?"

There is no doubt: people love to think and talk about aliens. Hence, stories about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence get picked up and reported with gusto in the media.

Heart - Topic - Evidence - Nature - Evidence

But what really lies at the heart of this complicated and popular topic is evidence – the nature of any evidence of alien life, how we view and respect this evidence, and how this is communicated to the public.

Nowhere is this more important than in the coverage of scientific studies of a mystery object – 'Oumuamua – that was recently discovered passing through our solar system. For example, two publications in two respected peer-reviewed journals prompted very different reactions.

Scout - Messenger - Name - Object - System

'Oumuamua, meaning scout or messenger in Hawaiian, is the name given to the first detected interstellar object to visit our solar system. On discovery last year, 'Oumuamua was classified as a comet, but this was later withdrawn when no evidence for cometary activity was detected.

'Oumuamua was quickly found to have an orbit that does not belong to our solar system. It has an origin elsewhere in our galaxy, and a trajectory that saw it traverse the inner solar system over the course of a few months.

Sun - Earth - Geometry - Metres - Metres

It passed close to the sun and to Earth, and was found to have an unusual geometry, about 200 metres long and some 35 metres wide, rotating every seven hours.

The discovery of 'Oumuamua generated a lot of attention in the scientific community, and in the media. Given its unusual geometry and its origin outside the solar system, questions were soon asked as to whether 'Oumuamua could be a spacecraft.

Observations - Radio - Telescopes - Evidence - Transmissions

Observations were made with radio telescopes to search for any direct evidence of transmissions indicating intelligent life, including by...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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