Astronomers have completed their first round of telescope observations of ‘Oumuamua, the first known interstellar object to enter our solar system, to check the asteroid for signs of alien technology.
So far, they have found no evidence of artificial signals coming from the asteroid, they said Thursday—but the search isn’t over yet.
“Indeed, nothing has popped up, but we’re busy churning through the data we’ve collected so far,” said Andrew Siemion, the director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center who leads its Breakthrough Listen Initiative, a $100 million effort in the search for intelligent extraterrestrial life.
The decision to check ‘Oumuamua for artificial signals came from Yuri Milner, the Russian billionaire and tech investor who is spending $100 million over 10 years to fund SETI efforts.
‘Oumuamua was first detected by Hawaiian astronomers in October. The asteroid, named for a Hawaiian word meaning “messenger,” puzzled the astronomy community. The properties of the mysterious space rock were unusual, particularly its extremely elongated, cigar-like form, a shape difficult to create through the natural, known processes of the universe. Somewhere along the way, some astronomers began to wonder whether this space rock could be a probe of some kind, dispatched by an advanced civilization.