The bizarre interstellar object is not quite the alien technology many had hoped for. Even so, its true nature offers a tantalising message about other star systems that may be like our own.
Humans who have longed for proof that Earth life is not alone will have to keep their searchlights trained on our night skies for a bit longer.
If the first-known interstellar object to fly through our solar system is likely to teach Earthlings anything, it is that the web of space connects alien worlds that are more alike than we may have realised.
It was Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS astronomical observatory that discovered ‘Oumuamua — “messenger” or “scout” in Hawaiian — back in 2017, as the intrepid object torpedoed past the Sun at almost 320,000km per hour. Defying conventional description, its flat, elongated shape inspired the imaginative human brain to surmise it might be a piece of alien technology; or, less controversially, a comet.
Now we have good reason to describe this astro cause célèbre as an icy nitrogen lump that had been ripped off a Pluto-like planet in another solar system.
“This research is exciting in that we’ve probably resolved the mystery of…