By Morgan Krakow
All of the stars Matthew Knight saw through the giant telescope in Arizona were bright with persistent light. All of them but one, which appeared to be flashing, in a way — light that went in and out, dull and then bright, every hour. He assumed there was something wrong with his data. But days earlier, the University of Maryland research scientist heard about a strange object out in space, when it was discovered by the Pan-STARRS1 telescope in Hawaii.
What he was seeing was an interstellar object — the first we have ever been able to observe from Earth — tumble through our solar system, rotating and reflecting sunlight in pulses.
When it was discovered, many theories about the object’s origin emerged. One suggested it was from an alien civilization, sailing into our solar system. Some researchers thought it was possible the object was an alien solar sail, relying on the sun’s light to push it through space.
“I don’t want to completely say it’s not aliens because we didn’t actually go to it and see it up close,” Knight said. “But I think that’s a very unlikely possibility.”
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