In a study published on Thursday, astronomers from the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics published their observations of an interstellar object known as Oumuamua.
According to the scientists, the rock that was the first to get into our star system from another, unexpectedly gained in speed as it traversed the inner solar system last year.
Since the object appears to have both asteroid and comet-related properties, astronomers have speculated that the unusual acceleration may be due to a "light sail of artificial origin" being pushed by solar radiation.
The study "Can solar radiation pressure explain the particular acceleration of Oumuamua?" Was conducted by Harvard University by Shmuel Bialy, a researcher at the CfA Institute of Theory and Computation (ITC), and Professor Abraham Loeb, director of the ITC, Frank B Baird, professor of science.
The astronomers wrote: "In view of an artificial origin, one possibility is that" Oumuamua is a light sail floating in interstellar space as the debris of advanced technological equipment. "
The asteroid was first discovered by the Haleakala Observatory in Hawaii on October 19th of last year.
The strange cigar shape of the object and its unusual behavior let many suspect that it could be an alien artifact.
In the year since the scientific community debated whether Oumuamua is a comet or an asteroid. The object seemed to accelerate as it left the solar system, suggesting that material was left off its surface after it had been heated by the sun, in a manner corresponding to a comet.
However, since Bialy and Loeb did not carry out a similar process when closest to the sun, they argue that it is a lightweight sail – a form of spacecraft that relies on radiation pressure to produce propulsion. Loeb said to Universe Today: "Oumuamua could be an active piece of alien technology exploring our solar system.
"The alternative is to imagine that Oumuamua was on a reconnaissance mission. The assumption that Oumumua followed a random orbit requires the creation of such objects per star in our galaxy. "
Karen Meech, an astronomer at the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Hawaii and co-author of the study, suggested that dust grains on the surface of most comets had been removed through interstellar space during their journey through Oumuamua.