In 2017, an object passed by Earth that was given the name ‘Oumuamua by experts. It was said to bear no resemblance to anything astronomers had ever seen before and didn't have any of the traditional markings that are usually seen on asteroids or comets.
Years later, astrophysicist and Harvard astronomy lecturer Dr Avi Loeb has hypothesised that 'Oumuamua was artificially made and could have been a piece of alien technology or debris from a civilization far, far away.
In his new book Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth, Loeb argues that there are enough planets in the universe with similar conditions to Earth to suggest that life could have evolved elsewhere.
"Overall, about a quarter of our galaxy’s 200bn stars are orbited by planets that are habitable the way Earth is, with surface conditions that allow liquid water and the chemistry of life as we know it. Given so many worlds … with similar life-friendly conditions, it’s very likely that intelligent organisms have evolved elsewhere.”
In an interview with NY Magazine, Loeb explained that 'Oumuamua had to have come from Interstellar space due to the speed with which it was moving, but the reason behind the speed remains something of a mystery. He adds that the object was the size of a football field, very thin and a similar shape to a pancake.
When asked if it was a coincidence that it fit the description of a stereotypical UFO, he said:
"It could be just the surface layer of a spaceship or something else that was torn apart. It could be something like a sort of space junk. It’s just like walking on the beach. Most of the time you see rocks or seashells, but every now and then you see a plastic bottle that is artificially made. This could be junk like that."
He added, "It’s like a message in a bottle, a physical object that we trace that is artificially produced. The moral of the story is that even though we didn’t get enough evidence on this object to get an image of it, or be sure that it’s artificial, it is sufficiently intriguing. We should continue to search the sky for similar objects."
Loeb also spoke out against the recent comments made by Haim Eshed, the former director of space programs at Israel’s Ministry of Defense, who told an Israeli newspaper that a 'galactic federation' had been established between human and aliens.
Loeb lambasted the reporters who covered the story for not asking Eshed for any evidence adding "We should not pay attention to someone that says something without evidence. It’s just a pity, because if you listen to too many people saying things that are not substantiated, then it’s hard for the public to select the truth from the noise."
Loeb, who has appeared on Joe Rogan's incredibly popular podcast, hopes that his arguments and his book can move people away from the common misconception and fear that people have of aliens and UFOs that have been promoted by works of science fiction.
He also hopes that the public interest in this area will encourage scientists to be more open about investigating UFOs and objects found in space.
"In the context of objects like ‘Oumuamua, we should find more of the same and see if they are artificial. If there are reports of unidentified objects, we should use the best instruments we have to study them, rather than rely on evidence reported by pilots, who are not scientists."
Although there is a lack of funding for the type of research that Loeb is asking for he definitely has ambitious ideas for what humanity can achieve if it looks to the stars just a little more often.