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Did interstellar object Oumuamua normalize space aliens as science in 2018?

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Could 'Oumuamua be an extra-terrestrial solar sail?
Artist’s impression of interstellar asteroid/comet, Oumuamua /ESO, M. Kornmesser

At least media feel freer to treat the topic that way:

The turning point came in November, when Avi Loeb, the head of the astronomy department at Harvard University, co-wrote a paper saying that Oumuamua is so unusual that scientists should consider the possibility that it’s not a far-out comet or asteroid, as his colleagues assumed, but rather an artificial structure.

In other words, maybe it’s an interstellar craft built by extraterrestrials.

Jason Wright, a Penn State astronomer who recently launched a graduate program in SETI (the search for extraterrestrial intelligence), shares Loeb’s desire for open discussion — and offers an upbeat assessment of the field’s growing respectability. “There’s a real culture change. SETI is becoming a serious scientific discipline,” he says. Corey S. Powell, “How the Oumuamua mystery shook up the search for space aliens” at NBC News

Actually, it has never felt abnormal to media or lacked science backing. Astronomer Carl Sagan (1934–1996) was an immensely popular voice for the idea (as in the film Contact). The actual problem, not that you’d know it from media coverage, has always been lack of evidence and abundance of crackpots. But that has never stopped anyone.

Characteristically, from the same article,

Wright has participated in studies of Tabby’s Star, whose intermittent dimming had some scientists wondering if it was encased within a vast artificial structure built by aliens. While the latest results show that’s not the case, Wright is undeterred. Almost all such searches are destined for failure, he says, and all it takes is one success to change the world. Corey S. Powell, “How the Oumuamua mystery shook up the search for space aliens” at NBC News

Here’s Tabby’s Star.

Sky & Telescope says, “Observations have since firmly ruled out” alien construction projects. But why don’t we take it as a general rule that such findings have never deterred SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) and never will.

The underlying thought seems to be this: In a randomly formed universe, intelligent beings must have randomly evolved in many places; we just have to find them. So They’re Out There and always will be, so long as SETI is around to look for them.

Note: It would be possible to assume the existence of extra-terrestrial civilizations against the backdrop of  Christianity, as C.S. Lewis does in his science fiction works (Space Trilogy). But the need such books meet is not what drives SETI.

See also: Astronomers: Solar system object in transit, Oumuamua, might be a “light sail of extra-terrestrial origin”


SETI reacts to the new study that says not to wait up for extraterrestrials

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