Last November Harvard University astronomers Shmuel Bialy and Avi Loeb suggested that the anomalous acceleration after it rounded the sun could be explained if Oumuamua is a solar sail. Their claim blew up into a big controversy because, well, 'aliens'.

Funny thing, this is one of those rare cases where Occam's Razor says Oumuamua's most likely *is* an alien artifact; because all the other explanations are actually more complicated!

Here are three examples:


Thing is, if Bialy and Loeb are right and Oumuamua is a solar sail, then there are some interesting speculations we could make from that.

1. The odds of such an artifact randomly encountering our sun is pretty low, so either there are lots of alien cultures launching starships or it was deliberately aimed at us. If the latter, it was probably launched hundreds or even thousands of years ago, so probably not because they expected to find intelligent life.

2. Oumuamua was tumbling and it's acceleration after it rounded the sun was too high for something with much mass, so either it was a Starwisp probe or it was a loose solar sail, detached from the rest of the starship.

3. If it was a detached sail from a probe launched intentionally to our solar system, then things get REALLY interesting! Why? Well, where's the rest of it?

Let me explain–the late, great Robert L. Forward didn't just come with with the idea of Starwisps…

Actually Forward (who was both a physicist and a Hard SF writer) played around with a LOT of solar sail designs and one of them featured a sail which detached from the main craft. Basically it had two sails, one of which was detached and used to reflect light from a giant laser back on the rest of the craft to decelerate it.

If that is the case with Oumuamua, then in a decade or so we will be getting a new visitor moving along the same path, but considerably slower.

And that brings us to (4).

4. If Oumuamua is an interstellar probe (or part of one) it's most likely not the only one and our best bet is to focus optical and radio telescopes back along the path it came on, looking for anomalies. We should do it even if we don't believe Oumuamua is of alien origin, simply because there's a non-zero chance we'll find something.

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