A massive, elongated object flew past Earth not long ago. It is considered the first ‘interstellar’ visitor, and scientists from the Breakthrough Listen project have taken particular interest in the object and will scan it for signs of advanced alien technology.
Dubbed ‘Oumuamua, space boffins originally thought that the cigar-shaped object was an extremely elongated comet, but a number of things have raised several flags among experts who have started to wonder whether or not its possible that the mystery shaped object is, in fact, an alien probe, sent to our solar system from a distant alien civilization.
“The more I study this object, the more unusual it appears, making me wonder whether it might be an artificially made probe which was sent by an alien civilization,” Professor Avi Loeb, the chair of Harvard’s astronomy department and one of Yuri Milner’s advisers on Breakthrough Listen, wrote in the email.
Mr. Yuri Milner is the tycoon behind the project Breakthrough Listen —a $100 million (£75m) search for intelligent extraterrestrial life.
‘Oumuamua, formally designated 1I/2017 U1, it was discovered by Robert Weryk using the Pan-STARRS telescope on 19 October 2017, 40 days after it passed its closest point to the Sun.
As noted by Breakthrough Initiatives, ‘Oumuamua’s high speed – 196,000 mph at its peak – suggests it is not gravitationally bound to the Sun, but will continue its voyage back into interstellar space. The object has a highly unusual structure for a comet– an elongated cigar shape, hundreds of meters in length but with width and height perhaps only one-tenth as long.
Its shape, experts say, is the most likely architecture for an interstellar spacecraft, since this would minimize friction and damage from interstellar gas and dust.
“While a natural origin is more likely, there is currently no consensus on what that origin might have been, and Breakthrough Listen is well positioned to explore the possibility that ‘Oumuamua could be an artifact,” explained experts.
“‘Oumuamua’s presence within our solar system affords Breakthrough Listen an opportunity to reach unprecedented sensitivities to possible artificial transmitters and demonstrate our ability to track nearby fast-moving objects,” said Listen’s Andrew Siemion, Director of Berkeley SETI Research Center. “Whether this object turns out to be artificial or natural, it’s a great target for Listen.”
Experts will use the Green Bank radio telescope in West Virginia to scan ‘Oumuamua, which is named after the Hawaiian word for “scout” or “messenger”.
The Green Bank radio telescope will to Oumuamua across four radio frequency bands spanning one to 12 gigahertz from 8 pm UK time on Wednesday.