A strange cigar-shaped asteroid called Oumuamua, that appeared in our solar system last October, has stunned scientists across the world who were convinced for months that the interstellar object was an alien spaceship heading towards Earth.
Proponents of the ‘panspermia’ theory – which believe that life was brought to Earth from a different planet, or even a different galaxy for that matter – think that the interstellar asteroid could finally answer the age-old question about the Earth’s origin.
First Interstellar Asteroid Spotted in Our Solar System
Oumuamua is the first alien visitor to have appeared in our solar system through interstellar travel and scientists believe that the asteroid had violently collided with astronomical matter in space many billions of years ago, which sent it soaring into our galaxy. The discovery was first made by a group of astronomers in Hawaii who noticed that the strange planetesimal did not belong to our planetary system and had most likely traveled from a different solar system.
Oumuamua has also been a subject of fascination in the astronomical community due to its strange appearance which resembled a thin log with a metallic surface which serves as an organic shield to protect the frozen water inside from the sun. This interstellar object is nothing like any comet or asteroid scientists had ever observed before.
Could there be More of these Objects?
Researchers are now trying to figure out where the asteroid has come from and why it is here in our vicinity. A study in the Nature Astronomy journal says that it is highly probably that the log-like structure originated around a different star. The color of Oumuamua is another fascinating mystery. Scientists discovered that the surface of the interstellar interloper is red whereas the rest of the body is dark and metallic.
Although this planetesimal is the first of its kind to be spotted, experts are speculating that millions of other strange interstellar objects could exist in our solar system which are yet to be discovered. Because of the strong gravitational forces from the sun and Jupiter, these comets and asteroids get stuck in our solar system for billions of years until they collide with other planetesimals and experience a force large enough to send them flying back into the interstellar space.
The Theory of Panspermia
Manasvi Lingam is an astronomer who strongly believes that life can be dispersed across solar systems through interstellar objects like comets and asteroids. This theory is better known as panspermia which simply means that life on Earth must have begun somewhere else. Scientists have already observed this phenomenon between different planets within the solar system, as rocks from Earth travel to Mars and vice versa. These rocks can easily carry seeds of life from one planet to another as well as tough strains of microorganisms which are able to survive in the most extreme of environments in space.
All we know is that our solar system is filled with objects that have traveled through interstellar space and there are many that have left our solar system to join a different planetary system. If an object from a planet collides with another planet in a different solar system, it is possible that it could transfer the ‘seeds’ of life as well. Life on Earth could have started the same way.
Solving the Mystery of Extraterrestrial Life
Scientists have used computer models to determine the number of interstellar objects that could have collided with Earth 3.8 billion years ago and they found at least 400 of these interlopers with varying sizes which made contact with our planet – and possibly brought life from elsewhere.
Lingam believes that the research done in the field of panspermia could be crucial in discovering alien life. It could be possible that objects and artifacts from more intelligent civilizations including interstellar spacecrafts are trapped in our solar system and instead of making efforts to travel into the interstellar space to look for signs of alien life, we could start searching from our own planetary system and find signs of unusual asteroids which could solve the age-old mystery of extraterrestrial life.