Scientists Thought They Discovered Aliens, Turns Out It Was Just Space Gas

An interstellar object passed by Earth in 2017, with some scientists thinking it could have been an alien spacecraft originating from some faraway place. In fact, Avi Loeb, a physicist at Harvard was one of the loudest voices behind the idea the object named 'Oumuamua could have been part of some extraterrestrial civilization out there among the stars. Now, a new study says the object wasn't anything more than a comet with a peculiar gas trail.

A new study published by the University of California, Berkeley's Jennifer Bergner and Darryl Seligman, a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University, says the propulsion of the object was likely nothing more than water and cosmic dust picked up by 'Oumuamua as it raced through space.

"I have been trying to explain the outgassing for several years now," Seligman said in a new chat with "First, I thought that perhaps there just wasn't too much dust in the outgassing [to form the coma]. Later, we thought that perhaps it was made of some more volatile material than what we see in usual comets, such as hydrogen, nitrogen or carbon monoxide. But there were theoretical issues with each of these explanations."

According to the study, the pace at which the celestial body was moving effectively "cooked" the water and dust, forming hydrogen as result.

"What's beautiful about Jenny's idea is that it's exactly what should happen to interstellar comets," Seligman added in a statement accompanying the study. "We had all these stupid ideas, like hydrogen icebergs and other crazy things, and it's just the most generic explanation."

So researchers didn't discover alien life after all?

Not necessarily. Given we still don't know about the potential existence of alien life, all that's left are theories and experiments in hopes of finding the one true answer.

"We have no way of knowing whether it's active technology, or a spaceship that is no longer operative and is continuing to float in space," Loeb said in 2021. "But if Oumuamua was created together with a whole population of similar objects that were launched randomly, the fact that we discovered it means that its creators launched a quadrillion probes like it to every star in the Milky Way."

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