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Initial scans of the mysterious cigar-shaped object have found no signs of extraterrestrial life but scientists are still scanning to find evidence of its supposed artificial origin.
The breakthrough announcement was made by scientists at the Breakthrough Listen Initiative who have blasted the asteroid with radio signals from the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, US.
Oumuamua caught the attention of astronomers across the globe due its unprecedented shape, sparking fears it was an alien spaceship from beyond the solar system. It was given a name which in Hawaiian means “a messenger from afar arriving first”.
The mysterious object is roughly 400m wide, about 10-times as long and “unlike any asteroid in our solar system”, NASA have said.
The American space agency added: “While its elongated shape is quite surprising, and unlike asteroids seen in our solar system, it may provide new clues into how other solar systems formed.”
But on Thursday scientists announced initial scans of four-bands of radio waves have failed to produce evidence of alien life – but the search continues.
Andrew Siemion, Director of Berkeley SETI Research Center, said: “It is great to see data pouring in from observations of this novel and interesting source.
“Our team is excited to see what additional observations and analyses will reveal”.
If researchers were to pick up any radio signals form the alien object the evidence would be monumental, agreed Avi Loeb, professor of astronomy at Harvard University.
But the expert remained grounded in his belief that Oumuamua is still most likely nothing more than a peculiarly-shaped asteroid.
Oumuamua: The bizarre asteroid has baffled scientists and conspiracy theorists alike
He said: “We are most likely not to find anything, but it is worth checking steadily our fishing hooks. We will keep searching for artificial signals from Oumuamua or any other interstellar object that will be discovered in the future.”
The first batch of scans ran from 8.45pm GMT on Wednesday December 13 to 2.45am GMT on Thursday December 14 (3:45pm to 9:45pm ET).
We will keep searching for artificial signals from Oumuamua
The Virginia telescope’s scans spanned billions of individual radio channels across the 1 to 12 GHz range in hopes of detecting signs of life.
A grand total of over 90 TB of raw data were collected which will take a considerable amount of time to analyse.
But Mr Siemion remained hopeful that a new observational time window between December and 15 and December 16 could lead to some new exciting discoveries.
Oumuamua: The Green Bank Telescope scanned the asteroid with radio signals for signs of life
He said: “The team has just met and reviewed our results from all four bands observed last night and we don’t see anything continuously emitting from Oumuamua.
“We’re now digging in to some of the intermittent candidates, and trying some new machine learning-based techniques we have been working on.
“We expect our next observation window to be scheduled for December 15 or 16, when we should get a view of additional ‘phases’ of Oumuamua as it rotates.”
But despite the disappointing result, conspiracists remain hopeful that Oumuamua is direct proof of a UFO trying to reach out for contact.
Penn State University associate professor Jason Wright, who personally does not believe Oumuamua to be alien-made, happily embellished and engaged in some of the conspiracy theories.
He speculated the object’s tumbling motion resembled that of a broken-down spacecraft lost in the darkness of space.
On his online blog he wrote: “Such derelict craft would, if they are not traveling so fast that they escape the Galaxy, eventually ‘thermalise’ with the stars and end up drifting around like any other interstellar comet or asteroid.
“In fact, since they (presumably) no longer have attitude control, one would expect that they would eventually begin to tumble, and if they are very rigid that tumbling might distinguish them from ordinary interstellar asteroids.
“And in fact, just because their propulsion is broken doesn’t mean that their radio transmitters would be broke.”
Oumuamua: A scientist speculated that the alien object could be a derelict spacecraft lost in space
Astronomers have already catalogued some 750,000 asteroids, but Oumuamua has fuelled speculation by being the only one to originate far from beyond our galactic neighbourhood.
In fact NASA have suggested that the alien asteroid has wondered through the Milky Way for hundreds of millions of years before chancing upon our solar system.
Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate said: “For decades we’ve theorised that such interstellar objects are out there, and now – for the first time – we have direct evidence they exist.
“This history-making discovery is opening a new window to study formation of solar systems beyond our own.”