Breakthrough Listen to observe Ourmuamua

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Breakthrough Listen, one of billionaire Yuri Milner’s Breakthrough initiatives, is going to do an observation campaign of the interstellar object Ourmuamua using the Green Bank Radio telescope.

It has a highly unusual structure for an asteroid – an elongated cigar shape, hundreds of meters in length but with width and height perhaps only one tenth as long.

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 minimize 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.

Listen’s observation campaign will begin on Wednesday, December 13 at 3:00 pm ET. Using the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope, it will continue to observe ‘Oumuamua across four radio bands, from 1 to 12 GHz. Its first phase of observations will last a total of 10 hours, divided into four “epochs” based on the object’s period of rotation.

If anything, this observation will provide us more information about Ourmuamua itself, which unfortunately is very limited because the object was already on its way out when it was discovered.



  • FC

    If I were drunk, ʻOumuamua would sound suspiciously like Rama. I’m just sayin’.

  • BSJ

    Do I read it correctly, they’re only going to listen for some sort of transmission coming from the object?

    I don’t see anything useful coming from that.

    We should be hitting it with every radar mapper on the planet instead!

  • Localfluff

    “I don’t see anything useful coming from that.”
    You know, there are those who made themselves into historic launching stock by making such claims, then suddenly disproved. Like all oil being consumed in the mid 1850s and everything already having been invented in 1900 and global warming killing us all in 2000. SETI is working to humiliate you!

    We humans know very little. We (some of us) are very proud of the progress of humanity. But this can’t be anywhere near understanding what is out there. We can explain most of what we see only because we are nearly blind.

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