Interstellar Visitor To Be Scanned for Signs of Alien Technology

Interstellar Visitor To Be Scanned for Signs of Alien Technology

Astronomers are set to scan an "alien" comet for signs of extraterrestrial technology.

Scientists on the Breakthrough Listen project, which searches for evidence of alien civilisations, said the Green Bank telescope would monitor the object, named "Oumuamua", from Wednesday.

The Breakthrough Listen project was launched by Stephen Hawking in 2015 and is funded by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner.

They say they are looking for radio signals, claiming the mysterious visitor could be an alien spaceship. "Therefore when I first learned about it I started wondering whether it might be an artificially-made probe which was sent by an alien civilization", Loeb wrote in notes about the early observation of 'Oumuamua provided to Popular Mechanics.

Loeb believes that the peculiar shape of the comet is quite odd for natural space rocks, but it is quite ideal for a spaceship flying between the interstellar space.

Breakthrough Listen has now announced the program will scan Oumuamua this week for signs of radio signals. "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 artifact".

Breakthrough Listen, the global astronomical program searching for evidence of civilizations beyond Earth, announced that it is now focusing its observational efforts on 'Oumuamua, the mysterious interloper recently spotted moving rapidly through the solar system. 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.

Milner and his team want to measure the object before it extends beyond the reach of Earthbound scanning equipment. The object will pass the orbit of Jupiter next year and past Pluto by 2020. "If we do identify a signal that appears artificial in origin, we'll know instantly".

One previous theory was that Oumuamua was once a planet ten times the size of Earth, but was partially destroyed when it got too close to its own star. It's not entirely clear, but it doesn't sound good - even couched in the cautious language of the scientific paper: "Impact from an interstellar object would be far more energetic than from a solar system object with similar mass, due to the larger impact speed".

'Oumuamua's unusual cigar shape ― 10 times longer than it is wide ― was also "the most likely architecture for an interstellar spacecraft since this would minimize friction and damage from interstellar gas and dust", the organization said. It aims to listen for radio signals coming from potential other civilisations outside our solar system. Its first phase of observations will last a total of 10 hours, divided into four "epochs" based on the object's period of rotation.

Dr Karen Meech, from the Institute for Astronomy in Hawaii, said: "Oumuamua may well have been wandering through the Milky Way, unattached to any star system, for hundreds of millions of years before its chance encounter with the solar system". "We should check each and every one of them".

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