The interstellar interloper was first discovered on August 30 by Ukrainian amateur astronomer Gennadiy Borisov and has since been named C / 2019 Q4 (Borisov) in his honor. But while most astronomers believe it to be a comet, Dr. Seth Shostak, senior astronomer for the SETI Institute, acknowledged that there may be a more sensational explanation.
We cannot rule out that this is an interstellar probe
The same day, foreign enthusiasts threatened to descend on the secret US military base Area 51
"If we get a close-up view, we can very well see that it has a metal exterior with holes and small green faces looking at us.
"But I would bet on next month's pay check that this is a comet."
C / 2019 Q4 (Borisov) may be an alien spaceship (although it is probably a comet)
Although – which seems likely – C / 2019 has a natural origin in, Dr. Shostak added : "I have no doubt that foreigners are out there, we would not do our job if I did not believe it.
"It is even possible that they have visited Earth sometime, maybe a billion years ago, maybe 100 million years ago. We may never know."
Anyway, C / 2019 seems to have its origin outside the solar system, which would make it the second visitor in just two years after the arrival of the cylindrically shaped asteroid Oumuamua 2017.
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C / 2019 Q4 (Borisov) was discovered last month
When Oumuamua was first discovered, there were similarly frenzied speculations about its nature, with some suggesting it may be an alien probe and pointing out the unpleasant similarities of Rendezvous to Rama, a science fiction novel 1973 by Arthur C Clarke.
SETI examined Oumuamua during its flypast two years ago, and Dr Shostak suggested: “I have suggested to our SETI team that we should look at this new object with the Allen Telescope Array.
"Then maybe we will check it out. "
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Dr. Shostak acknowledged the remote possibility that C / 2019 Q4 (Borisov) was an alien spaceship
A spokesman for the International Astronomical Union & # 39; s Minor Planet Center (MPC), which gave its name to C / 2019 Q4, said: “Based on available observations, the orbital solution for this object has converged to the hyperbolic elements shown below, which would indicate an interstellar origin.
"Further observations are clearly very desirable, as all available observations have been obtained at low sun extensions and low altitudes. " Lack of an unexpected bleaching or decay, this object should be observable for at least one year. " Asteroid factfile "title =" Asteroid factfile "data-w =" 590 "data-h =" 356 "/>
Speaking last week, the developer of astronomy software said Bill Gray: "We don't know how bright it will be.
" There is always a problem with comets, so you have that unpredictability, combined with the fact that it is interstellar.
"And this is the first interstellar comet we've seen."
Olivier Hainaut, a astronomer with the European Southern Observatory, told Business Insider last week: "It's so exciting, we're basically looking away from all our other projects right now.
" The biggest difference from & # 39; Oumuamua and this one is that we got it a long, long time in advance.
"Now astronomers are much more prepared."