They Could Be Out There: Astronomer Urges Humanity to Hunt for Objects Like Oumuamua

CC BY 4.0 / ESO/M. Kornmesser / The first interstellar asteroid, `OumuamuaThis artist’s impression shows the first interstellar asteroid, `Oumuamua
This artist’s impression shows the first interstellar asteroid, `Oumuamua - Sputnik International, 1920, 18.06.2021
Loeb expressed his hope that, with advance warning, humanity could not just detect objects similar to Oumuamua, but send spacecraft to study them in detail.

Avi Loeb, a Harward University astronomer who proposed that Oumuamua – an interstellar body from outside of our Solar System that whizzed past Earth in 2017 – could be an artificial object, has called to expand efforts to search for alien civilizations that may exist in the depths of space.

"The chances are that we will be encountering alien technology – in other words, equipment – long before we encounter creatures from other worlds," he said, cited by Haaretz. "Equipment can survive over long distances and long periods of time, and equipment can be sent off without any intention of its being used for many years to come."

According to the media outlet, Loeb observed that there are "tens of billions of systems like the Earth and the sun just in the Milky Way," which would suggest that there are "quite reasonable odds" that civilizations like ours may exist, even in our galaxy.

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He also noted that, since the universe was formed billions of years ago and most stars formed before the Sun, “another civilization need only be older than ours to have technology that we are incapable of understanding.”

"It’s reasonable that older alien civilizations sent out spacecraft, just like we’ve sent out Voyager and New Horizons beyond our solar system," Loeb remarked. "We need to be searching for evidence of the existence of alien civilizations just like we conduct archaeological excavations, looking for anything they may have left behind. We can find evidence for their existence if we discover other bodies like Oumuamua, and if we find them early enough."

The astronomer also expressed his hope that the upcoming addition of the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile, which is more sensitive than the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii that discovered Oumuamua, may allow humanity to discover such objects more frequently and perhaps, "with advance warning", even "send up a spaceship that could meet it, photograph it, and maybe even land on it."

"If we could document such an object, we could easily distinguish between an artificial object and a natural object – and if it’s artificial, we could bring this technology to Earth," he said. "As a result of discovering the technology of other cultures, more advanced than ours, we’ll enjoy a scientific boost, and this will have a very high economic value. The moment the field of astroarchaeology opens up, it will be like the gold rush."
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