An object scientists are calling Oumuamua has just become the first foreign body to enter our solar system in recorded history. According to a report by MSN, Oumuamua is assumed to be an asteroid at this point, however, starting tonight scientists are scanning it for signs of extra-terrestrial life.
Oumuamua's shape is one of the things that has scientists raising their eyebrows. The "asteroid" is ten times longer than it is wide — giving it a sort of cigar shape. This is highly uncommon for a space rock, as gravitational forces generally shape asteroids into spheres. On the other hand, the design is perfect for interstellar travel.
Breakthrough Listen, a $100 million project looking into life beyond Earth, issued a statement on Oumuamua. "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 minimise friction and damage from interstellar gas and dust," they said.
"While a natural origin is more likely," their statement goes on, "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 artefact."
Breakthrough Listen is a project of SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. Starting tonight, they'll use the Green Bank radio telescope in West Virginia to study and track Oumuamua. The dish will "listen" to the object across four radio frequencies, looking for any signs of contrived communication.
Scientists from the project say that even if it turns out to be natural, they have a lot to learn from the new object.
Oumuamua is the Hawaiian word for "scout," or "messenger."