Viewed from afar, the Milky Way might appear similar to the galaxy known as NGC 7331. Picture: R. Jay GaBany/NASA
RELIGIOUS leaders in Durban are mixed in their views about alien life.

This follows a suggestion from scientists at Harvard University in the US that a cigar-shaped object that tumbled through our solar system in October last year, was a probe sent by an intelligent alien life form to spy on us.

The object was called “Oumuamua” which means “a messenger that reaches out from the distant past” in Hawaiian. It was picked up by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawaii.

Since its discovery, scientists have been at odds as they tried to explain its unusual features and origins.

Researchers first called it a comet, then an asteroid. When the object failed to satisfy the criteria of either, they labelled it a first of its kind: a new class of “interstellar objects”.

Given its high speed and its unusual trajectory, the reddish, stadium-sized whatever-it-is clearly came from outside our solar system.

But its flattened, elongated shape and the way it accelerated through the solar system set it apart from conventional asteroids and comets.

In a paper, researchers at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics raised the possibility that the elongated dark-red object, which is 10 times as long as it is wide and travelled at speeds of more than 300000km/* , could be of “artificial origin”.

“Oumuamua may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilisation,” they wrote in the paper, which has been submitted to the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The theory is based on the object’s “excess acceleration”, or its unexpected boost in speed as it travelled through and ultimately out of our solar system in January.

Religious leaders also expressed mixed views on the possibility of other life forms.

According to Bishop Rubin Phillip, head of the Anglican Church in KwaZulu-Natal, God created all life in the universe, not just on Earth.

As a result, it was his belief that Christianity could include the possibility of life beyond our planet.

“The Bible talks about God creating every living creature. God created all life and not just life on Earth alone, but in the whole universe.

“If life is discovered in the universe, this is not a contradiction of our beliefs, because God created life and we believe that there is life all over,” said Bishop Phillip.

Dr Faisal Suliman of the SA Muslim Network said there was nothing in the Qur’an that negated the possibility of other creations in the universe.

“Yes, we believe that we may not be the only creations in the universe.

“The Qur’an does not say that we are the only creation,” said Suliman.

However, Ashwin Trikamjee, president of the SA Hindu Maha Sabha, rejected the notion of alien life.

“Hinduism believes in Karma and that if you have been doing good, you come back again.

“The soul finds itself another body to live in.

“Therefore there is no space for any other life,” he said.

Shembe (Ebuhleni) spokesperson Thokozani Mncwabe also dismissed the idea that there could be life on other planets.

“I do not wish to stretch much on the matter, however, we strongly believe that all living creatures are on Earth and anything else is a fable,” said Mncwabe.