LAST WEDNESDAY, AT 3:45 pm, scientists from the Breakthrough Listen project trained the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia on ‘Oumuamua—the mysterious, oblong space-rock which last month became the first known object to enter our solar system from elsewhere in the universe—and scanned it for signs of intelligent life.
For six hours, astronomers interrogated the interstellar asteroid. Green Bank swept across four radio bands and billions of individual channels, searching for transmissions as weak as the signal from your cell phone. Signals that could indicate ‘Oumuamua is not just a rock but a spacecraft, with aliens—or alien technology—aboard.
By Thursday, astronomers had reported that their initial observations had turned up nothing. (Surprise!) If ‘Oumuamua is harboring extraterrestrial stowaways, they’re not producing a continuous signal across the frequencies Breakthrough Listen’s researchers have monitored thus far. But Listen’s scientists may have been onto something: Whether there’s life aboard or not, ‘Oumuamua kind of has the makings of an interstellar space vehicle.