And he suggested many more similar objects are likely to be out in the nether regions of the universe awaiting discovery – while emphasising the importance of mankind colonising the stars. Prof Loeb was commenting after the publication of a new paper published earlier this week in Nature Astronomy by Yun Zhang and Douglas N C Lin of the University of Cote D’Azur in Nice suggesting Oumuamua was the fragment of a dwarf planet torn apart by the gravitational tide of a distant star – findings he disputes. He told Express.co.uk: “This new paper leaves open the possibility of an artificial origin for Oumumua because it cannot account for the required abundance of such objects by requiring a production region so compact around their parent star.
“As a result my original view that Oumuamua exhibits many weird and unexpected properties that do not admit a simple natural explanation has not been changed by the new proposal.
“We should still keep an open mind about Oumuamua’s origin.”
Prof Loeb, the Frank B Baird Jr Professor of Science at Harvard University, has long argued scientists did not have enough time to study the cylinder-shaped object to draw firm conclusions, and has suggested it may in fact have been an artificial thin solar sail accelerated by solar radiation pressure.
He added: “I have forecasted that future sky surveys, like LSST with the Vera Rubin Observatory, will likely find many more interstellar objects and help us unravel the origin of objects like Oumuamua.”
Such a study would include identifying and studying objects trapped by Jupiter and held in orbit around it, as well as studying the Moon’s cratered surface to learn more about objects which impacted in in the past.
The most recent study proposes Oumuamua is the result of tidal disruption as the result of a dwaf’s close encounter with a star.
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“In my view, the statistics of such events makes the proposed scenario very unlikely.”
Prof Loeb said there was no evidence Oumuamua was propelled by outgassing, whereby gas frozen or trapped inside an object is released to power it on its journey.
He added: “Clearly, such objects were not produced or captured in large abundance in the Solar System.”
Irrespective of its origins, Prof Loeb said the appearance of Oumuamua should spur greater efforts to reach out into space, highlighting the havoc caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as an example of the inherent problems of remaining on Earth.
He explained: “Indeed, life on Earth is fragile.
“There are many risks for our survival.