He is not giving up.
Avi Loeb of Harvard University has long hypothesized that there is a possibility that ‘Oumuamua, a strange object that visited our solar system in 2017, was an extraterrestrial spaceship that stopped by for a visit.
A disputed theory among his colleagues, Loeb proposed in a 2021 publication that ‘Oumuamua may have been a probe launched by an alien civilisation.
The essence of Loeb’s theory, that ‘Oumuamua was a solar sail, an advanced kind of propulsion that would let a spacecraft to exploit the low pressure of solar radiation to fly across space, has most recently been attacked by an international team of researchers.
The researchers found that in their analysis, which has been approved for publication in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, “It’s improbable that ‘Oumuamua will be a light sail. Future surveys can use our approaches to statistically identify and study the unique observable signals of the dynamics of an invading light sail, assuming one exists.”
But Loeb isn’t having it. He is remaining steadfast.
This week, he said to The Daily Beast, “There are a few aspects that the authors have neglected.”
Shangfei Liu, an astronomer from Sun Yat-sen University in Zhuhai, China, spearheaded the international team’s argument that if ‘Oumuamua was a light sail, it would have had a huge, flat surface that would have reflected more light than what we saw coming from the enigmatic object in our sparse observations.
Shangfei said to Beast, “If it was a light sail, the brightness fluctuation should be considerably bigger.”
However, Loeb contends that the sail “need not be flat.” His own study suggests that it may have been a light sail with a distinctive form that reflected light in peculiar ways.
The scientist even suggested to Beast that ‘Oumuamua “may not be a sail at all, but rather a surface layer broken free from a bigger object” — or, to put it another way, a piece of extraterrestrial spaceship debris that just so happened to fly through our star system.
Naturally, exceptional claims require extraordinary action. Perhaps all that the object was as it screamed through space was a comet releasing gas.
Unfortunately, coming across an interstellar object like ‘Oumuamua is quite uncommon.
But if given the chance, and as Shangfei and his coworkers claim in their research, “with aid of a great amount of very precise observation data in the future,” perhaps we might finally solve the issue.