Stephen Hawking:Cigar-shaped asteroid 'Oumuamua' could be an alien space...



Even Stephen Hawking thinks mysterious cigar-shaped asteroid 'Oumuamua' could be an alien spaceship

It's the first object discovered in the solar system that appears to have originated from another part of the galaxy

A scientific body backed by Stephen Hawking is investigating whether a cigar-shaped object that zipped through our solar system earlier this year could have been an alien spaceship.
Astronomers from the University of Hawaii first spotted the mysterious celestial body known as "Oumuamua" in October, when it passed the Earth at about 85 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 shape - hundreds of metres in length but only one tenth as wide - is highly unusual for a space rock.
Travelling at up to 196,000 mph, 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.



Artist's impression showing the first interstellar asteroid: Oumuamua 


Now Breakthrough Listen , a $100 million programme backed by British physicist Stephen Hawking, Russian digital tech mogul Yuri Milner, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, is investigating whether Oumuamua may have unnatural origins. 
The organisation, whose aim is to search for evidence of civilizations beyond Earth, is using the world's largest manoeuvrable radio telescope at Green Bank in West Virginia to track the object.
The giant dish began "listening" to the object across four radio frequency bands on Wednesday, December 13, in an attempt to detect electromagnetic signals that cannot be produced in nature.
The detection of these signals could indicate the object is not an interstellar asteroid, as many believe, but some kind of alien starship . 



The Green Bank radio telescope in West Virginia, US which is tracking 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," said Breakthrough Listen in a statement.
"While a natural origin is more likely, 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 artifact."
Meanwhile, Dr Jason Wright, an associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State University, claims the motion of the strange object could be key to discovering its origin.
Rather than speeding smoothly through space like a rocket or an aeroplane, astronomers believe that Oumuamua is "tumbling" through our solar system.
According to Dr Wright, this is consistent with the motion of a spaceship whose engines have failed.
"Such derelict craft would, if they are not travelling so fast that they escape the Galaxy, eventually 'thermalize' with the stars and end up drifting around like any other interstellar comet or asteroid," he wrote in a blog post . 
"In fact, since they (presumably) no longer have attitude control, one would expect that they would eventually begin to tumble, and if they are very rigid that tumbling might distinguish them from ordinary interstellar asteroids... and in fact, just because their propulsion is broken doesn’t mean that their radio transmitters would be broken..."
The object is currently about two astronomical units (AU) from Earth - or twice the distance between the Earth and sun.
At this distance it would take less than a minute for the Green Bank telescope to detect an omnidirectional transmitter with the power of a mobile phone.



Oumuamua comes from another part of the galaxy 


Even if no evidence of extraterrestrial technology is found, the search could provide important information about gases surrounding Oumuamua or the presence or absence of water, according to the researchers.
"Oumuamua's presence within our solar system affords Breakthrough Listen an opportunity to reach unprecedented sensitivities to possible artificial transmitters," said Listen’s Andrew Siemion, director of Berkeley SETI Research Center. 
"Whether this object turns out to be artificial or natural, it’s a great target for Listen ." 
Breakthrough Listen aims to survey a million nearby stars and 100 nearby galaxies looking for alien signals.
Since the 1960s, there have been more than 98 SETI projects around the world, none of which have turned up any convincing evidence of extraterrestrial civilisations.
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