‘Oumuamua observations in 3,2,1…

Categories Breakthrough Listen, SETI

As indicated in our press release, we are excited to be focusing our observational efforts on ‘Oumuamua, the mysterious interloper recently spotted moving rapidly through the solar system.

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

‘Oumuamua is now about 2 astronomical units (AU) away—that’s equal to twice the distance between Earth and the Sun—placing the interstellar interloper more than 50 times closer than the Voyager I spacecraft. At this distance, the Green Bank instrument could detect an omnidirectional transmitter on ‘Oumuamua with the power of a cellphone in under a minute of observing.

Even if no signal or other evidence of extraterrestrial technology is heard, Listen observations could provide important information about the possibility of water/ice, or the chemistry of a coma (gaseous envelope), neither of which have yet been identified.

Image credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser