Today’s Top Space Headline –“Alien Probe or Galactic Driftwood? SETI Tunes In to ‘Oumuamua'”

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In a breathtaking followup to the mid-October discovery of our first detection of a strange 800 meters long by 80 wide interstellar visitor, the world's scientific community is initiating a probe to see if it's an ancient shard of an extinct planet or an alien technology reminiscent of the 20010 Space Odyssey monolith.

As Scientific American author Lee Billings writes: "Oumuamua [Hawaiian for “first messenger”] appeared to have been dropped in on our solar system from some great interstellar height, picking up even more speed on a slingshot-like loop around the sun before soaring away for parts unknown. It is now already halfway to Jupiter, too far for a rendezvous mission and rapidly fading from the view of Earth’s most powerful telescopes."

"What’s more,' Billings observed, "it is twirling at a rate that could tear a loosely-bound rubble pile apart. Whatever ‘Oumuamua is, it appears to be quite solid—likely composed of rock, or even metal—seemingly tailor-made to weather long journeys between stars. So far there are few if any wholly satisfactory explanations as to how such an extremely elongated solid object could naturally form, let alone endure the forces of a natural high-speed ejection from a star system—a process thought to involve a wrenching encounter with a giant planet."

These odd features have raised the adrenaline level among the planet's SETI community, spurring Breakthrough Listen founder Yuri Milner to initiate an active probe for interstellar radio transmissions from other cosmic civilizations. If ‘Oumuamua is in fact artificial, observes Billings, "it might be transmitting or at least leaking radio waves."

This Wednesday at 3 p.m. Eastern time, the Breakthrough Listen project will target the West Virgina-based 100-meter Green Bank Telescope at ‘Oumuamua for 10 hours of observations in a wide range of radio frequencies, scanning the object across its entire rotation in search of any signals. 

“With our equipment at Green Bank, we can detect a signal the strength of a mobile phone coming out of this object,” Milner says.

Continue Reading  at Scientific American…

 

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