A long, cigar-shaped object has been spotted flying through our solar system, and scientists are not yet ruling out the possibility of it being a spacecraft.
This UFO is unique, being the very first visitor to travel into our solar system from elsewhere in the vast and mysterious galaxy.
University of Hawaii astronomers – who spotted the unusual traveller – first thought they were looking at an asteroid.
However, its weird characteristics suggest it could be something far stranger altogether. In fact, there’s a chance we could be looking at an alien-made spacecraft.
The lengthy, needle-like shape of the reddish coloured object does not quite fit with what scientists recognise to be an asteroid – which are normally rounder.
The University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy has explained how although the object known as Oumuamua is hundreds of metres in length, it is merely one tenth of this in width.
Some scientists have noted how this shape would be ideal for a long-distance spacecraft, reducing chances of a collision with space gas and dust.
Oumuamua is currently journeying through the Milky Way at speeds reaching 196,000mph. It appears as though it won’t get tied up in the sun’s gravitational pull.
Interstellar object Oumuamua defies explanation – it is the most unlikely shape for an asteroid. Could it be a spacecraft? SETI are to test. I am on Sky News at 14.10 talking about whether intelligent alien life is about to be discovered @ImperialRSM pic.twitter.com/PMKqOWGjh6
— Matthew Genge (@rockbloke) December 12, 2017
Researchers from the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (Seti) Breakthrough Listen project have released the following statement:
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.
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.
Seti is currently getting ready to use a high tech radio telescope – known as the Green Bank radio telescope – to observe Oumuamua and find out whereabouts in the universe it has travelled here from.
NASA scientists confirmed last month they believe the object to originate from outside our solar system.
The strange object is now around two astronomical units (AU) away from Earth. This is twice the distance from the Earth to the sun.
With this current distance, the 100 foot telescope would need under a minute to detect an omnidirectional transmitter.
The #BreakthroughListen #SETI project is currently observing the interstellar asteroid #Oumuamua as it speeds into deep space — just in case it's an alien spaceship: https://t.co/rUkXdpqyHt #news #astronomy #radioastronomy via @brkthroughprize pic.twitter.com/H4xBRpy9C2
— AstroSociety Pacific (@AstroSocietyPac) December 11, 2017
This is a rare and valuable opportunity for scientists to gather information about distant reaches of the universe, whether or not the object turns out to be an alien artefact.
Director of the Berkeley Seti Research Centre in California, Dr Andrew Siemion, has explained:
Oumuamua’s presence within our solar system affords Breakthrough Listen an opportunity to reach unprecedented sensitivities to possible artificial transmitters and demonstrate our ability to track nearby, fast-moving objects.
Whether this object turns out to be artificial or natural, it’s a great target for Listen.
`Oumuamua seems to be a dark red highly-elongated metallic or rocky object, about 400 meters long, and is unlike anything normally found in the Solar System.
— Planetary Society (@exploreplanets) December 11, 2017
The telescope is due to be pointed at the object on December 13, at approximately 8pm GMT.
The first round of observations will take 10 hours in total, divided into four separate ‘epochs’ in accordance with the Oumuamua’s rotation.
— Oumuamua (@OumuamuaCraft) December 12, 2017
— Tippers (@talktotippers) December 12, 2017
Could we soon be getting glimpse at a very advanced – and adventurous – alien species?
Lets hope they’re friendly…
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.