Was Oumuamua An Extraterrestrial Craft And Will It Return?

Marcus Lowth
Published Date
August 10, 2022
Estimated Reading Time
9 min read
Posted in
Space, The Universe

To most people, the strange object noticed by astronomers at the University of Hawaii in 2017, as interesting as it was, was nothing more than a strangely shaped asteroid or comet. However, further study of this strange object suggested to some that it could be something altogether stranger.

Depiction of Oumuamua

Just what was Oumuamua?

Various details about the object stood out to scientists studying it, perhaps not least its strange shape and the fact that it appeared to speed up and slow down in a way that, at least to some, suggested some kind of intelligent control.

While there are many who dismiss the possibility that this particular aerial anomaly could actually be an extraterrestrial spacecraft, the fact is, no explanations have been satisfactorily agreed to explain the many mysteries and unknowns about it. In fact, tentative and speculative as it might be, a cautious analysis suggests that there could be something artificial about Oumuamua.

Could it be possible that this apparent natural body from outside our solar system was, in fact, an alien spacecraft? And if so, for what reasons to it perform an apparent flyby of Earth before heading off back into the depths of space?

Something From Outside The Solar System Not Previously Seen

The object was first noticed on 19th October 2017 when astronomers from the Haleakala Observatory at the University of Hawaii picked up on the cosmic anomaly. [1] The object, which appeared visually through the telescope as nothing but a dot was described as being a “red and extremely elongated asteroid”.  In fact, many of those who studied the object and its likely dimensions would offer that there was “something spaceship-like” about it, with it being approximately 10 times longer than its width.

The discovery was particularly exciting as it was the first interstellar object that had been discovered to have entered our solar system. The object was dubbed Oumuamua which is the Hawaiian word for messenger or scout. Unfortunately, the object was only noticed by the time it had gone around the sun and began heading away from us.

The red dot is Oumuamua as seen from the William Herschel Telescope

The red dot is Oumuamua as seen from the William Herschel Telescope

Initial studies suggested that the object had arrived from the direction of Vega and was traveling at around 57,000 miles per hour. [2] The person who first detected it, Robert Weryk, claimed that he immediately realized that the object presented physics with completely new data to work with – essentially, it was something previously unseen.

The more scientists studied the object, however, the stranger the details they noticed, not least that it had a “peculiar acceleration”. There were several possibilities to explain this strange acceleration, such as solar radiation pressure “pushing” the object forward, or even that a release of gas from the object itself provided the force needed to increase its speed.

However, it was soon determined that these possibilities were not possible, leaving the object shrouded in as much, if not more mystery than when it was first spotted.

Possibilities Of An Alien Spacecraft?

After several years of study, several suggestions were put forward that the object could, in fact, be an alien spacecraft. And these suggestions didn’t just come from the UFO community but from serious-minded, mainstream scientists. [3]

A year after it had first been discovered two researchers from Harvard University began to question whether Oumuamua was a natural object and whether it could be an alien spacecraft. In a paper written by Harvard’s chair of the astronomy department, Avi Loeb, and a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Shmuel Bialy, they offer that it could be a real possibility that the object could be a “fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth’s vicinity by an alien civilization”.

Loeb would elaborate that there were at least several other things that stood out as being strange about Oumuamua. In an article for Scientific American, he would state that even the fact that it existed in the first place was mysterious, given its shape and dimensions, which have never been seen before. Furthermore, as well as the fact of the acceleration was that Oumuamua appeared to move slower than all other objects and bodies in space (that move relative to the sun), which again, is something “very special”. Might this suggest, once more, some form of intelligent control?

Artist's depiction of Oumuamua

Could Oumuamua have been an alien spacecraft?

Loeb would also voice his frustration that the object was spotted much too late to be photographed and studied more up-close, adding that his “motivation for writing the paper is to alert the community to pay a lot more attention to the next visitor”.

Although it received less media attention, a discovery in August 2019 by amateur astronomer, Gennady Borisov is also of particular interest here. During the early hours of 30th August, at just before dawn, Borisov was watching the sky when he noticed a strange object moving in an unusual way. Ultimately, the object was moving in the opposite direction to the comets that would be dispelled from the asteroid belts around the solar system.

The object was given the name 21/Borisov, with the explanation being that it was a “rogue comet”. And while there are indeed some similarities with Oumuamua, all data from the object appears to suggest that it broke apart (as a comet might). One thing that is worth noting, however, was the apparent tail of the comet alone was 14 times the size of Earth, meaning had it been on a collision course with us, the consequences would have been fatal.

Although the discovery by Borisov is almost certainly to have been a comet that broke apart, there is no such certainly with Oumuamua, which remains a complete mystery.

Not As Crazy An Idea As Many People Might Think

The idea that the object could be an extraterrestrial craft – even if just a probe – is not as outrageous as people might think. After all, we have sent many objects, satellites, and probes deep into space. If an intelligent civilization did exist out there – and statistically that would appear to be more probable than unlikely – they wouldn’t need to be that much more advanced to be able to send such a craft our way.

If we assume that is an accurate scenario for a moment, we need to remember that we too have sent several, albeit smaller, space probes out into the deep reaches of the solar system. And these satellites will likely drift and drift and quite possibly leave our planetary system and enter another. Indeed, in many thousands or millions of years, an intelligent civilization on another planet might spot and even recover this (to them) anomalous device. The fact is, if we have done this, then it is not at all beyond the stretch of the imagination that another advanced, complex alien civilization did so, perhaps hundreds of thousands of years ago and which has only very recently found its way into our cosmic neck of the woods.

Of course, we have only sent out (relatively speaking) basic unmanned probe devices. And given the huge proportion of Oumuamua, there could be a very good reason to suspect that, if it was an extraterrestrial craft, it would be a lot more advanced and complex than a mere probe.

Indeed, if Oumuamua was an alien spacecraft, what really needs to be determined is if it was occupied by an alien intelligence, was it an alien probe and unmanned, or was it even an abandoned derelict ship that simply drifts through space, perhaps guided by artificial intelligence to explore planetary systems. In fact, it is to those considerations that we will turn our attention to next.

If It Was An Alien Craft, What Might That Mean?

If we assume – just for the moment and for the sake of argument – that Oumuamua was without a doubt an alien spacecraft, we might take a momentary pause for thought about what this might truly mean for humanity. After all, as has been pointed out before, if we go by our own history alone, when two civilizations meet there is often conflict. Might we expect this same conflict to arise if extraterrestrials did arrive on Earth? And given how advanced they would seemingly have to be just to get here, the prospects for us perhaps wouldn’t be so good.

Artist's depiction of Oumuamua

There would be many things to consider if Oumuamua was an alien craft?

When we take into account the difficulties of traveling through space, leaving aside the ability to travel faster than the speed of light or to create wormholes, this spacecraft could have been traveling for hundreds of thousands of years. And while we don’t know how long the potential alien occupants’ lifespan is, we would realistically be left with two options to consider. That those onboard are in some kind of suspended animation, perhaps to be “woken” when a suitable, livable, or inhabited planet is detected, or that multiple generations have been born, lived and died on this huge spacecraft as it traveled through space.

If take this speculation a stage further, and again, looking at the environmental damage that has been done to our own planet as a consequence to our advancement, it very well could be the case that this alien race have been searching the galaxy, even the universe, in search of a planet that would allow them to rebuild their society once more – just like we might, assuming we had made the required technological advancements, should our world become uninhabitable.

We might ask, what would such a race of aliens do if they came upon a planet that would offer them the chance to rebuild their society and give up their cosmic nomadic existence? As far-fetched as such notions might be, if there was any truth to them, there is good reason for us to be at least cautiously concerned.

What About All Those Other UFO Sightings?

Another thing to contemplate is, once more, if we assume once more that Oumuamua was some kind of alien spacecraft or another, is what does that mean for the many UFO sightings of strange craft within the skies of our own planet, sightings that date back decades, at the very least? Are these previous strange aerial vehicles somehow connected to this mammoth spacecraft noticed by astronomers in 2017, or are they completely separate from them, ultimately, another alien race?

This would, of course, mean that more than one alien race is visiting the planet, a notion that has seriously been put forward by some UFO researchers and government whistleblowers alike, perhaps not least by Paul Hellyer, the former Canadian Defense Minister, who not only made such statements publicly but made them in Congress. And if there is any truth to multiple alien races, both physically visiting the Earth as well as monitoring it from afar, then we have to really ask ourselves, just what might be taking place in the far reaches of space and will there be any direct consequences to humanity?

With all of this in mind, then, Oumuamua’s appearance has perhaps only muddied the waters even further. If this object is an extraterrestrial craft, then why has it kept its (relative) distance compared to the many apparent discs or spherical-shaped objects that are reported around the world each day? What could the purpose of this flyby be and what is the end goal? Indeed, the more questions we ask the more we realize we are completely in the dark. Above all else, though, will this speculative alien race be beneficial for humanity, indifferent, or outright hostile?

A Possible Explanation? Not For Everyone!

In 2021, a possible explanation was put forward by an astronomer of planetary science at Arizona State University, Alan Jackson, and his colleague, Steven Desch that could, they claimed, explain the mysterious Oumuamua.

To begin with, they ruled out all of the gases that couldn’t have been responsible for providing the extra burst of acceleration and were eventually left with nitrogen ice that could indeed have given the object the boost it required. To offer further proof that their theory was accurate, they examined the shiny surface of Oumuamua and “compared it to the reflectivity of nitrogen ice” – their findings were that they matched almost exactly.

Ultimately, the pair offered that Oumuamua was likely a huge, elongated piece of nitrogen ice that had somehow been chipped away from the surface of a planet similar to the dwarf planet, Pluto, that resided somewhere outside of our solar system. They would further estimate that this likely occurred around half a billion years ago, with the cigar-shaped object having traveled through space ever since.

They would state that the object had likely taken on its unique shape through being “worn down” over the millions of years it had simply traveled through space, with the nitrogen ice would have left “an invisible tail” which would explain the temporary acceleration. They claimed that a person can see through nitrogen and that it is “difficult to detect”.

Artist's depiction of Oumuamua

Could an explanation have been found for Oumuamua?

As we might imagine, not everyone buys into the theories of Jackson and Desch, perhaps not least Avi Loeb, who doubts a planet the size of Pluto would have produced such a huge “fragment” that would have survived in space for so long.

We might also consider that other strangely shaped and thought-changing objects might be making their way into our solar system as we speak, indeed, they could already be here awaiting detection. Given that we have more telescopes and monitoring technology in the reaches of space than we ever have before, we should perhaps not be surprised that we start to pick up on these strangely shaped objects more than we have in the past.

Ultimately, we still don’t know what Oumuamua is or if it will return. This brings us back to the first point – could it have been something more “alien” than most people might think? Could it have been an extraterrestrial spacecraft?

A Drastically Missed Opportunity

It is certainly an intriguing notion that an extraterrestrial spacecraft – albeit very likely a probe of some kind – could have already performed a flyby of our planet by the time we even noticed it. Indeed, we might ask how many other anomalous objects have performed such flybys undetected.

Of course, what if this anomalous object was indeed an alien spacecraft, but not an unmanned one? What if it contained intelligent alien entities? What would the purpose of that flyby have been, and will they return?

As it stands, the object has moved out past Neptune and will likely head out of our solar system, possibly disappearing for good never to return. Indeed, if this object was something anomalous and not a natural object, we very well could have missed our opportunity to study such a mystery of the universe.

And, perhaps above all else, if this object was of extraterrestrial origin, might it be we see a return visit, only this one on a larger scale? If we accept, for example, the possibility that this was some kind of alien probe, if the reason for it arrival was to simply provide intelligence data to an unknown alien race somewhere in space, might that intelligence be acted upon? Indeed, the consequences for humanity, if this alien race should prove to be hostile or aggressive in any way, could be dire.

It could very prove to be that this was not merely a missed opportunity from the standpoint of study and research, but possibly a fatal error in an upcoming future event that awaits us.

The short video below examines Oumuamua a little further.


1 Have Aliens Found Us? A Harvard Astronomer On The Mysterious Interstellar Object, Oumuamua, The New Yorker https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/have-aliens-found-us-a-harvard-astronomer-on-the-mysterious-interstellar-object-oumuamua
2 Astronomers spent decades looking for objects from outside our own solar system. Then two arrived at once. When should we expect the next one? And what can they teach us?, BBC https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20210506-the-interstellar-voyagers-that-visited-our-sun
3 Scientists say mysterious ‘Oumuamua object could be an alien spacecraft, NBC News https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/scientists-say-mysterious-oumuamua-object-could-be-alien-spacecraft-ncna931381

Marcus Lowth

Marcus Lowth is a writer with a love for UFOs, aliens, and the Ancient Astronaut Theory, to the paranormal, general conspiracies, and unsolved mysteries. He has been writing and researching with over 20 years of experience.

Marcus has been Editor-in-Chief for several years due to his excellent knowledge in these fields. Marcus also regularly appears as an expert on radio talk shows including Troubled Minds and Unexplained Radio discussing these topics.

Read Marcus' full bio.

You can contact Marcus via email.

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