Astronomers to check interstellar body for signs of alien technology

That, at any rate, is the guiding idea for a team of astronomers, who announced Monday they plan to check out an interstellar object for signs of life.

Lead scientist Dr Andrew Siemion, director of the Berkeley Seti Research Centre in California, said: "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".

If found it would be the biggest sign that extraterrestrial intelligence could be involved.

The telescopes sensitive equipment would would take less than a minute to pick up something as faint as the radio waves from a smartphone, according to the Atlantic. During the interstellar rock's flyby in November, scientists only had a brief time to study it, but Breakthrough Listen is now planning an in-depth observation of 'Oumuamua to take place on December 13, and the results, whether they confirm alien life is onboard or not, are likely to be worthy of a season or two of The X-Files.

The boffins are listening for electromagnetic signals which can not be produced in nature.

A statement from the £75million Seti project Breakthrough Listen, launched by Russian digital tech mogul Yuri Milner in 2015, said: "Researchers working on long-distance space transportation have previously suggested that a cigar or needle shape is the most likely architecture for an interstellar spacecraft, since this would minimise friction and damage from interstellar gas and dust".

'While a natural origin is more likely, there is now no consensus on what that origin might have been, and Breakthrough Listen is well positioned to explore the possibility that 'Oumuamua could be an artefact'.

Even if there's no signal coming from 'Oumuamua, the Green Bank observations can still collect valuable insight on whether the asteroid possesses water or ice or exhibits any odd chemistry. And since it has already whipped around our sun and embarked on its long return to parts unknown, researchers working with the global organization want to seize their limited opportunity to find out if it really is just a naturally occurring phenomenon - and not something more.

The space rock is now twice as far from us as the sun and will eventually shoot passed Jupiter next year. "If we do detect a signal that appears artificial in origin, we'll know immediately".

In a press release from the European Southern Observatory, scientists got a little more specific about color and form, noting that 'Oumuamua is likely dark red because of the radiation in space, and that it's unusually massive for an object hurtling through space.

That aspect ratio is greater than that of any asteroid or comet observed in our solar system to date.

The observations, part-funded by Nasa suggested this unusual object had been wandering through the Milky Way, unattached to any star system, for hundreds of millions of years before its chance encounter with our star system.

'This history-making discovery is opening a new window to study formation of solar systems beyond our own'.

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