Ever since the weird interstellar object ‘Oumuamua was discovered in late 2017, there has been speculation about the possibility that it could be an alien spaceship. So much so that, before its official name was decided upon, the name Rama was put forward – a reference to the alien spacecraft discovered under similar circumstances in Arthur C. Clarke’s 1973 science fiction novel Rendezvous with Rama.
“The more I study this object, the more unusual it appears, making me wonder whether it might be an artificially made probe which was sent by an alien civilization,” the chair of Harvard’s astronomy department, Avi Loeb, said at the time.
Since then, though, speculation has cooled off somewhat – and it is now generally accepted that ‘Oumuamua is a strangely elongated, mostly inert comet traveling at huge speeds due to its origin beyond our Solar System, somewhere in interstellar space.
But that hasn’t stopped a team of scientists – including SETI legends Jill Tarter and Seth Shostak – from conducting a study investigating whether there are any radio signals being emitted from ‘Oumuamua.
‘Oumuamua, with an estimated size of several hundred meters, has a large axial ratio – approximately 10:1. Such a cigar-shaped morphology has never been found for a solar system object.
…While all measures made of ‘Oumuamua are consistent with it being either an asteroid or a comet, another scenario has attracted attention. The object’s unusual shape, coupled with its passage through the near-center of our solar system (could it have been targeted?), raises the possibility that ‘Oumuamua is an interstellar probe, constructed either by fabrication or by hollowing out an existing object.
While a non-natural origin for ‘Oumuamua is unlikely, that would be a poor reason for dismissing the idea entirely. Little will be learned if the truth is assumed a priori. Consequently, we undertook observations of this object with the Allen Telescope Array beginning November 23, 2017. If artificially produced emissions could be detected from this object, they would tell us that, rather than being a rock from space, it was some sort of probe. This would, quite obviously, be a momentous discovery.
Unfortunately (or I guess fortunately, in the case of a hostile alien scenario), no such momentous discovery was made. “No evidence for such emissions were found in the observational data,” the team report in their conclusions.
Although as Terence McKenna once noted, “to search expectantly for a radio signal from an extraterrestrial source is probably as culture-bound a presumption as to search the galaxy for a good Italian restaurant”…