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Scientists from Harvard say that interstellar objects could have been steered by "extraterrestrial civilization"

According to a few Harvard scientists, a huge, fast-moving visitor to our solar system may have been sent through an extraterrestrial civilization. Most astronomers believe Oumuamua – Hawaiian for "messenger" or "scout" – is a comet or an asteroid, except for half a mile. But there are things about the behavior that they can not fully explain. Enter two Harvard scientists with an idea, even if they admit it's a bit, reports CBS News correspondent Tony Dokoupil.

When Oumuamua was discovered last October, it tumbled along the sun with 196,000 mph. For some, the reddish object looked like a cigar. Others thought it had the shape of a pancake.

"It looks very different from objects we have found in the solar system," said Avi Loeb, chairman of Harvard University's astronomy department. Loeb said Oumuamua did not behave like an ordinary asteroid or gave off gas as a comet.

"There seemed to be an extra force that pushes it, and it is not clear what this push comes from," he added.

In an upcoming newspaper, he and colleagues offer what they call a "more exotic scenario … Oumuamua can be a fully operational probe that has been deliberately sent to Earth by an extraterrestrial civilization."

According to their calculations, Oumuamua is less than a millimeter thin, but very broad as a sail, and uses solar radiation to propel itself – similar to the spaceship that count Dooku used in the films of "Star Wars".

"I just want everyone to take that with a giant grain of salt," said Jackie Faherty, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History. She said that Oumuamua did not signal that it was a spaceship.

"If you say that the top 10 statements do not include an extraterrestrial probe, what is on that list with the top ten statements?" Early Dokoupil.

"It's a comet, or an asteroid, or a rock," Faherty said.

"So where is the extraterrestrial civilization on the list of statements?"

"I do not know, really low, really low, really, really low," said Faherty.

Faherty doubts the appearance of Oumuamua, we are on the verge of an extraterrestrial meeting like the one in the movie & Arrival & # 39;

"Oumuamua, as it is now, is a phenomenal discovery and a very important object for astronomers to study and to get enthusiastic about," Faherty said. "It is OK that they are not extraterrestrials."

Oumuamua is now so far away that we can no longer see it with our satellites. Faherty had a theory about why we always come up with these exotic explanations: however difficult it is to understand the existence of extraterrestrials, it is apparently even more difficult to understand the idea that we are alone.

© 2018 CBS Interactive Inc. All rights reserved.

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