spaceSpace and Physics

Scientists Just Checked A Mysterious Interstellar Object For Signs Of Alien Life. Here's What They Found


Jonathan O'Callaghan

Senior Staff Writer

Artist's impression of 'Oumuamua. ESO/M. Kornmesser

Scientists have found no evidence for artificial signals coming from the interstellar object ‘Oumuamua. That means it’s probably not an alien spaceship, we’re afraid.

The Breakthrough Listen project announced earlier this week that they would be using the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia to study the object for signs of alien life.


These observations were conducted on Wednesday, December 13. Breakthrough Listen is designed to look for alien signals elsewhere in the universe, but the scientists on the project decided to turn their attention to ‘Oumuamua briefly as it is such a unique object.

It was spotted in our Solar System in October 2017. Owing to its speed and trajectory, we were able to work out that it was probably an asteroid from another planetary system.

However unlikely, scientists in this project also wanted to check whether there was a chance it was artificial in nature. Just in case.

“Overall, it’s a very peculiar object indeed,” Avi Loeb from Harvard University, one of the scientists on the project, told IFLScience. “Which made me wonder – could it be an artificially produced interstellar probe?”

The Green Bank Telescope. NRAO/AUI

In this study, the telescope was used to look for any signals coming from the object. About 90 terabytes of raw data were gathered over two hours of observations.

No evidence of artificial signals have been found so far. However, the team pointed out that monitoring and analysis would continue, as all the data had not been looked through yet.

“It is great to see data pouring in from observations of this novel and interesting source,” said Andrew Siemion, director of Berkeley SETI Research Center, in a statement. “Our team is excited to see what additional observations and analyses will reveal.”

‘Oumuamua is making its way out of the Solar System, never to return. It’s hoped that we might find more interstellar objects like this in the future though, giving us a greater chance to study them.


There are a lot of unanswered questions at the moment, including the origin of the object itself. It’s quite odd in that it is very elongated, about 10 times longer at 400 meters (1,300 feet) than it is wide. One theory suggests it may be the shard of a broken planet. For now, though, it's not aliens.


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