Since writing my blog of last Friday about the cigar-shaped asteroid in the solar system, new theories have begun to emerge as to its origins and its very make-up. First astronomers thought it was just an elongated lump of galactic rock – now they think it might herald our first close encounter with ET.
Researchers are investigating whether a cigar-shaped object that entered our solar system in October could be an alien spacecraft. The bizarre claim was made as researchers involved in SETI – the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence – recently prepared to turn a powerful telescope on the mysterious celestial body.
They will look out for possible ‘artificial transmitters’ that could indicate signs of extra-terrestrial technology on the rock, which was previously assumed to be an inter-terrestrial asteroid.
Astronomers from the University of Hawaii spotted the object – dubbed Oumuamua – as it passed the Earth at about eighty-five times the distance to the Moon.
It is the first object discovered in the solar system that appears to have originated from another part of the galaxy. Although thought to be an asteroid, Oumuamua’s elongated cigar shape – hundreds of metres in length but only one tenth as wide – is highly unusual for a typical space rock.
Travelling at up to 196,000 miles per hour, the object’s high speed also suggests that it is not gravitationally bound to the Sun, but is destined to head back out of the solar system. A statement from the £75 million SETI project Breakthrough Listen said, ‘Researcher 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 currently no consensus on what the origin might have been and Breakthrough Listen is well positioned to explore the possibility that Oumuamua could be an artefact.’
Experts will be using the Green Bank radio telescope in West Virginia to listen to Oumuamua, which is named after the Hawaiian term for ‘messenger’.
Lead scientist Dr Andrew Siemion of Berkeley SETI Research Centre in California said, ‘Whether this object turns out to be artificial or natural, it is a great target for Listen.’
Since the 1960s, none of the ninety-eight SETI projects have found convincing evidence of extra-terrestrial civilisation. However, the Oumuamua surge could provide important information about the presence of water, say experts.
If this time our discovery of a new advanced extra-terrestrial were to prove positive then our world will no doubt benefit in a multitude of ways. Up to now it has been a great mystery which baffles the inception of humans as we know them now.