In December, astronomers checked every inch of an interstellar object that had entered our solar system for evidence of artificial technology. They spent weeks pouring over the data, looking for radio signals that would suggest the object, known as ‘Oumuamua, may be something other than a just a strange space rock.
They didn’t find anything.
The Breakthrough Listen Initiative, a $100 million effort in the search for intelligent extraterrestrial life, did not detect radio emissions from the object, according to a new paper published on arXiv, a repository for papers approved for future publication in journals, on Tuesday. ‘Oumuamua caught everyone by surprise in October as the first known interstellar object to be spotted in our solar system.
“From the start, we knew it would be a long shot, like any other SETI experiment,” said Emilio Enriquez, an astronomy Ph.D. student on the Breakthrough Listen team and the lead author of the paper.
The decision to check ‘Oumuamua for artificial technology came from Yuri Milner, the Russian billionaire and tech investor who established and is funding Breakthrough Listen. Astronomers released their first results from the observations in mid-December, based on an analysis of just one chunk of the radio data. “Indeed, nothing has popped up, but we’re busy churning through the data we’ve collected so far,” Andrew Siemion, the director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center who leads its Breakthrough Listen Initiative, said at the time. The latest paper includes the analysis of the full dataset. Still nothing.