A huge object passing by Earth (a little too close for comfort, actually) could be a sign of intelligent life, according to some scientists.
The object itself is hundreds of feet long, but it’s only one-tenth as wide – and that’s unusual for a standard asteroid. It’s also chugging through space at about 196,000 miles per hour, which indicates that it’s not affected by the sun’s gravity.
Called ‘Oumuamua, the object was first spotted by astronomers at the University of Hawaii. Now, scientists are eavesdropping on it through a program called Breakthrough Listen, a project of SETI (the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence).
"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,” said a statement from SETI. “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 minimize friction and damage from interstellar gas and dust.”
At its current distance from Earth, Breakthrough Listen could detect a transmission as weak as a cellphone signal within a minute.
It’s worth mentioning that there have been 99 SETI projects around the world since the 1960s, and not one of them has turned up evidence of aliens.
"'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," says 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."
What Do You Think?
Do you think ancient aliens are doing a fly-by, or that ‘Omuamua is just another space rock that’s behaving in ways we don’t expect? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share them on my Facebook page or on Twitter!