There may be 4 quintillion alien spaceships in our solar system

(ORDO NEWS) — 5 years ago in space, tens of millions of kilometers from the Earth, a very strange object swept past – about 300 meters long, oblong, shiny and fast. Its course and speed indicated that it had come from outside the solar system. A guest from another star system.

Astronomers named this object “Oumuamua” – Hawaiian for “scout” – and disputes flared up about it.

On one side are the vast majority of scientists who do not know what ‘Oumuamua is but do not want to speculate about what it might be.

On the other hand, there is a much smaller camp led by Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb, who argues that we should at least consider the possibility that ‘Oumuamua is an alien spacecraft.

Loeb now asks the next logical question. How much more ‘Oumuamua could there be in and around the solar system? In a new study, Loeb and his co-author Carson Ezell, also an astronomer at Harvard, concluded that there could be as many as 4,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (or 4 quintillion) of them.

Each of them is a guest from a different star system, and each may have been artificially created.

It may seem like a lot. But the solar system is huge. And the space between our star system and our nearest neighbor, Proxima Centauri, is even more extensive. Finding any of these 4 quintillion possible mysterious objects for closer examination can be very, very difficult.

To be clear, Loeb is not saying that there are quintillions of alien craft whizzing around our corner of the Milky Way. After all, he never said that ‘Oumuamua is necessarily a robotic probe or crewed ship – we just have to be open to that possibility.

So what Loeb and Ezell calculated is not the number of alien ships. This is a collection of possible alien ships or other possible artificial objects. The rest of the alien missiles. Unexplained pieces of alien technology beyond our understanding. Etc.

The math is simple. “Recent interstellar object detection rates and known capabilities can be used to estimate the density of such objects in the solar neighborhood,” write Loeb and Ezell.

They started with all the objects discovered by astronomers that came from outside the solar system. These are objects that, in other words, could have arisen with or near an alien civilization, beyond the visibility of our probes and telescopes.

There are four of them: Oumuamua, of course, as well as the interstellar objects CNEOS 2014-01-08 and CNEOS 2017-03-09, plus the Borisov interstellar comet.

That’s four interstellar guests in eight years. Loeb and Ezell have only taken into account how much of the galaxy we can observe with our instruments, which is not much to estimate how many more objects like ‘Oumuamua could be out there in the dark, arriving from a neighboring star system.

In fact, they came up with two numbers. One is for all interstellar objects, including those that fly randomly around and across the solar system and are unlikely to fall into the field of view of our instruments. That staggering number is 40,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (or 40 decillions).

The smaller number, 4 quintillion, refers to objects that appear to be directed towards the “habitable zone” of the solar system, close to the Sun. It is there that the Earth rotates, and there astronomers have some chance to notice a passing object.

This lower number is the most interesting, and not only because closer objects are much easier to spot. These are also the objects most likely to be extraterrestrial craft. After all, they seem to be pointing in our direction. These are objects with a specific purpose.

But even Loeb does not suggest that there are 4 quintillion objects like ‘Oumuamua. This object is remarkable not only for its obvious origin, but also for its size. It is large enough to be a very large crewed spacecraft.

Based on the interstellar comets we’ve detected, there’s a good chance that most interstellar objects in the habitable zone around the Sun are tiny – most likely no more than 3 meters across. For every object the size of ‘Oumuamua, there are probably a million such objects, Loeb explained.

That still leaves plenty of potential ‘Oumuamua out there somewhere in the habitable zone of the solar system. Each of them is a possible alien ship.

But locating these objects, let alone carefully examining them, is extremely difficult. It’s so difficult that a close encounter with a passing alien craft is the least likely way to make first contact with aliens, said Edward Schwieterman, an astrobiologist at the University of California, Riverside.

“In my opinion, the likelihood of detecting life originating outside our solar system is much higher with remote observation than with physical contact,” Schwiterman said.

We were lucky with Oumuamua. It’s very big, very shiny, and it’s passed at a distance of about 21 million kilometers from Earth.

But the solar system is over 9 billion kilometers across. And Proxima Centauri is still 20 trillion kilometers away.

Small and very distant, most interstellar objects – even those that cross the habitable zone – will be much harder to find than ‘Oumuamua. “Space debris is hard to see from a distance,” said Seth Szostak, an astronomer at California’s SETI Institute.

However, we do it better. New telescopes, including NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, are helping us peer further into the darkness of the outer solar system, find ever-smaller objects, and separate local objects from potential interstellar visitors.”

Loeb also noted the Vera K. Rubin observatory under construction in Chile. The observatory, scheduled to open in 2023, will be able to capture the entire southern sky every four days with a 3.2 billion-pixel camera.

“High-resolution imaging can reveal bolts and screws on the surface of a man-made object and distinguish it from a nitrogen iceberg, a hydrogen iceberg or a dust ball,” Loeb said.

‘Oumuamua was a “missed opportunity”. Of course, Loeb admits that this is an alien probe, but most astronomers do not think so. If we can take a closer look at the next ‘Oumuamua, perhaps more scientists will come to the conclusion that it could be an alien craft.

Theoretically, we have 4 quintillion possibilities.


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