‘Cigar’ asteroid might be an alien probe with broken engines - and there could be lots of them

Rob Waugh
Contributor
A team of researchers, including Stephen Hawking, is investigating whether the first known object from outside the solar system contains the first sign of life beyond our planet.

Last month, for the first time ever, astronomers spotted an object which had entered our Solar System from interstellar space – a strange ‘cigar’ up to 1,200ft long.

Researchers first thought it was a comet… then an asteroid… but now some scientists suggest it could be something far more interesting.

Dr Jason Wright from Penn State University says that it might be a broken alien spacecraft – tumbling through our Solar System helplessly without its engines.

Dr Wright writes, ‘Such derelict craft would, if they are not travelling so fast that they escape the Galaxy, eventually ‘thermalize’ with the stars and end up drifting around like any other interstellar comet or asteroid.

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‘In fact, since they (presumably) no longer have attitude control, one would expect that they would eventually begin to tumble, and if they are very rigid that tumbling might distinguish them from ordinary interstellar asteroids… and in fact, just because their propulsion is broken doesn’t mean that their radio transmitters would be broken.’

A team of researchers, including Stephen Hawking, is investigating whether the first known object from outside the solar system contains the first sign of life beyond our planet.

Dr Wright suggests the object may be a ‘Von Neumann probe’ – a self-replicating probe which scientists theorise might be a way that aliens explore other solar systems.

He said ‘Such a discovery would imply that there are lots of these things in the solar system at any given moment (even if they are deliberately targeting the sun, they are hard to spot and we’ll miss most of them), and so lots of opportunities to study them.’