Named Oumuamua after the Hawaiian word for “messenger,” the strange-looking interstellar object was first spotted in the solar system in October.
It is the first asteroid to be seen arriving in our galactic neighborhood after whizzing through interstellar space at almost 200,000 miles an hour.
The object, moving rapidly across the night sky, was initially thought to be a typical asteroid, drifting along in the sun’s orbit.
“Perhaps the aliens have a mothership that travels fast and releases baby spacecraft that freely fall into planetary systems on a reconnaissance mission,” Avi Loeb, an astrophysicist from Harvard University, told Scientific American.
Even though Oumuamua is now about twice as far from Earth as the sun, astronomers from the Breakthrough Listen project will be listening to it across four radio bands using the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia beginning Wednesday, December 13.
Breakthrough Listen is part of Russian billionaire Yuri Milner’s $100 million search for intelligent extraterrestrial life.
Scientists working on long-distance space transportation have previously suggested that a cigar or needle shape is the most probable architecture for an interstellar spacecraft, since this would minimize friction and damage from interstellar gas and dust.