The mysterious interstellar object unveiled by scientists last month is now going to be probed for signs of alien technology.
The 400m long cigar-shaped object is the first asteroid from outside of the solar system ever observed, first spotted zipping through the solar system on Oct. 19.
The object’s unique shape mystified scientists, with some proposing it could be a shard of a planet, broken off hundreds of millions of years ago.
Now some scientists believe it is worth considering another possibility—could the object be from an alien civilization?
A project set up by Stephen Hawking to probe the depths of the cosmos for signs of alien life will turn its detectors on the interstellar object on Wednesday, looking for the tell-tale radio waves that they believe set aside all tech from background radiation and waves in the cosmos.
The breakthrough Listen project uses radio telescopes to look for signs of alien life, aiming to survey one million nearby stars, the entire galactic plane and 100 nearby galaxies at a wide range of radio and optical bands.
With this interstellar visitor traveling “a stone’s throw” away in astronomical terms, the temptation is too great to miss.
“At this distance, it would take under a minute for the Green Bank instrument to detect an omnidirectional transmitter with the power of a cellphone,” said a statement by Breakthrough Initiatives.
“Most likely it is of natural origin, but because it is so peculiar, we would like to check if it has any sign of artificial origin, such as radio emissions,” Avi Loeb, professor of astronomy at Harvard University and an adviser to the Breakthrough Listen project told the Guardian.
“Even if we find an artefact that was left over and there are no signs of life on it, that would be the greatest thrill I can imagine having in my lifetime. It’s really one of the fundamental questions in science, perhaps the most fundamental: are we alone?” Loeb said.
Even if no alien tech is revealed, the radio scan could provide important information about the possibility of water or ice, or the chemistry of a coma (gaseous envelope) on the object.
The radio scans will be carried out by Green Bank radio telescope in West Virginia on starting on Wednesday, Dec. 13 at 3:00 pm ET, for 10 hours.
The quarter-mile long, cigar-shaped object is unlike anything astronomers have seen before, and it is believed it has been traveling across interstellar space for hundreds of millions of years.
The mysterious reddish object, which is speeding through the solar system reaching 196,000 mph at its peak , has been named Oumuamua.
Oumuamua was first observed by a telescope in Hawaii as it was traveling under Earth’s orbit on Oct. 19. It wasn’t behaving like most other objects in space, prompting speculation and then later, confirmation, that it was the first object ever witnessed to come from outside the solar system.
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