Monday, November 16, 2015

"Alien artifact" to pass Earth in 2017

Although this one isn't getting as much attention as the last one, there is an object in space that has aroused much curiosity.

It was first discovered in 1991 by an astronomer named James Scotti, who initially thought it to be just another asteroid of about 10 meters in width. But he soon found that the object, afterwards named 1991 VG, had several anomalies. It has a peculiar rate of rotation as well as fluctuations in speed and brightness. It was also in a heliocentric orbit similar to that of Earth. As soon as more data was gathered on 1991 VG, two things became clear: it had passed by the Earth once before in 1975 and would do so again in 2017.

A small asteroid passing by the Earth is by no means unusual, but they don't often make return trips. They get pulled in by the Earth and incinerated in the atmosphere, the Earth's gravity kicks them into a different trajectory, or they collide with another body in space. They don't usually keep coming back. That, combined with the other anomalous qualities of the object, had astronomers wondering if 1991 VG was a fragment of human-made space junk. Was it part of a rocket booster or something. There were possible candidates, but they were soon eliminated. Then in 1995, astronomer Duncan Steel made this astonishing assertion:

  “...none of the handful of man-made rocket bodies left in heliocentric orbits during the space age have purely gravitational orbits returning to the Earth [in November of 1991] might be argued that 1991 VG is a candidate as an alien probe observed in the vicinity of our planet.”

Turns out that Steel was raising this explanation only to debunk it, but he does think that we should  "take seriously the possibility that there are alien artefacts in the solar system, although I very much doubt that there are any, based on what we know so far." Despite this quite likely assessment, the phrase "alien probe" did garner attention from proponents of SETA...Search for ExtraTerrestrial Artifacts (a hortatory of which can be read here)

This is a notion that I've heard of, but had not looked into with any real amount of depth. I must say it's a fascinating concept. The idea is to not simply look for signals from or external indications of alien civilizations, but look for artifacts that they might have left behind in our own solar system. The argument for this approach is partly based on human activity. We send probes to collect data about our end of the universe, why wouldn't other civilizations do the same? It's a logical and expedient means of exploration. Another quite captivating notion is we might find archaeological fragments of other civilizations. Maybe they have already visited our solar system and left something behind? If a civilization has been destroyed or let its refuse out into space (much as we have in several ways), might the remains reach us one day? Imagine finding the alien equivalent of a Greek vase or a Roman statue floating in space,

As for the true nature of 1991 VG, we might get our answer in 2017.

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