Oumuamua is a relatively small (between 100 and 1,000 metres long by 35 and 167 metres wide) reddish object that was first discovered by scientists using the Pan-STARRS telescope at Haleakal Observatory in Hawaii, on October 19th 2017, forty days after it passed its closest point to the Sun. And it has been causing mischief ever since.
I am purposefully being a little cheeky with the title of this blog post. The reality is we do not know what Oumuamua is and we will likely never know with any certainty. And this is the basis for my argument that this mysterious interstellar object and the competing narratives surrounding it has all the motifs of a true UFO event.
UFOs are most dominantly defined by either the ETH or extraterrestrial hypothesis or the null hypothesis, meaning they are nothing more than something of natural origin misidentified at best. This uncertainty leads to the predictable debates among UFO believers and UFO skeptics, and the indifference by the rest of everyone else. This same scenario has played out with all of the major UFO flaps that have occurred in our modern times from the the 1952 Washington wave where UFOs literally buzzed the US government to the Belgium wave where alien ships appeared over NATO headquarters. There is initial public interest, followed by indifference because the events remain ambiguous.
This can also be said for the Oumuamua narratives. On the one hand you have a very qualified Harvard professor in Astrophysics making a case for alien technology in the form of a solar sail as being a very likely scenario, and on the other side some of his colleagues are stating it is the nitrogen ice and a piece of an exoplanet hypothesis.
The main proponent of the alien tech hypothesis is Avi Loeb who published Extraterrestrial – The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth in 2021. My husband Massimo Teodorani who is another Astrophysicist reviews Loeb's book here.
Currently Loeb is being partially supported by the mainstream UFO crowd, and mocked by the usual self proclaimed skeptics. This balance of support may tip in favour of the other direction if Avi's appearance at Contact In The Desert does not deliver the firm validation the ETHers in attendance are expecting. In February 2021 he replied to a question posed in a Scientific American interview about UFO conventions:
SA: "Would you also agree to be a speaker at a gathering of UFO “true believers” outside Area 51? Where do you draw the line for public outreach that risks enhancing the so-called giggle factor that has stymied progress in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) for decades?"
AL: "There are, of course, science-fiction stories about aliens, and there are many unsubstantiated UFO reports. Now, suppose there was some literature about the magical properties of COVID-19 that had no bearing in reality. Would that mean scientists should never work on finding a vaccine to this pandemic?" No!
Avi Loeb's position as a catalyst for change (introducing the notion that alien tech exists and is observable using scientific methodology) in the scientific pursuit of this subject through his hypothesis means that he could face destruction via both camps as has happened to other scientists of the past who have submerged into the muddy waters of UFO experience.
Another motif found in UFO events is PSI which is an umbrella term for all types of psychic experience.
In Eric Ouellet's gem of a UFO book entitled Illuminations: UFOs as a Parapsychological Event he outlines numerous cases of UFO experience that demonstrate a precognition of human technology usually by no more than few years or decades -> think the airships of the 19th century, the Swedish rockets UFO flap, drones etc.
The alien tech hypothesis laid out by Avi Loeb describes Oumuamua as being a solar sail, which objectively we as human beings are only decades away if not much less from developing and deploying in space exploration. In fact Avi Loeb has been involved with the development of this type of tech before the discovery of the mystery object. See Breaththrough Star Shot which was announced in 2015 two years before Oumuamua began stirring the interstellar pot so to speak. The timing of this should be noted because it too is seems an omen of the coming mysterious object that would fuel a passion and interest in this area of research and tech development.
So what we have here is a mysterious flying object, that seemingly, if a defunct or active solar sail belonging to an alien civilization, predates our own technology (but not by much!) that serves to once again polarise the ETHers and the skepticals, while the majority of people have moved on and forgotten about it, because while it is open to many interpretations we will never really know what it is or where it came from.
And at this point does it really matter the nuts and bolts of the thing?
Oumuamua as with all of the other mysterious UFOs that have enchanted and bedeviled us serves a much deeper purpose in my opinion. Diana Pasulka wrote in her book American Cosmic of crashed alien space-ship debris fields as being likened to donations from the Other, and this really resonated with me. Other than a very few reports of astronauts Oumuamua is really the very first object that we can say is a UFO and is occurring outside of our own atmosphere. It is truly extraterrestrial! Whatever it is. And this delights me.
I intuitively believe that the UFO experience including the recent discovery and ambiguity of Oumuamua has a similar function to a logo or a desktop icon, they are not exactly what they appear to be, are leading us towards something, and with a purpose, what that purpose truly is might be the more important question.
In my mind the alien ships are simply a modern bread crumb and are a part of the great human myth making that tells us we we are not alone.