Two more Breakthrough Listen datasets have been added to the Radwave Public Collection Bundle #1: 'Oumuamua ON and 'Oumuamua OFF.
I can't tell you just how excited I am about these two datasets. 'Oumuamua is the first confirmed interstellar object that we observed within our own solar system. Everything else we've ever observed within our solar system - going back thousands of years to the days of the ancient astronomers - every single one has traveled an elliptical path. But not 'Oumuamua. I bet we made Kepler smile pretty big.
But 'Oumuamua surprised us yet again with its highly unusual elongated shape, sparking excitement that we found something truly novel within our cosmic backyard. It seemed only appropriate to look at it every way possible.
Astronomers around the globe pointed their telescopes at it, but in my opinion the most captivating work was the survey conducted by the SETI Institute. Using the Green Bank Telescope (GBT), they conducted a very wideband, multi-hour radio survey in an attempt to observe any potential radio transmissions - natural or extraterrestrial. This survey involved pointing GBT slightly away from 'Oumuamua to measure the background noise, then pointing GBT toward 'Oumuamua to measure it directly. Looking for differences between these direct and indirect measurements allows us to find signals that come from 'Oumuamua versus other things.
Researchers at the SETI Institute analyzed this data, and concluded that 'Oumuamua wasn't transmitting anything observable. Part of the data was also added to their Open Data Archive so that experts like me could try analyzing it. But now - for the very first time - anyone can be a researcher. No long downloads, no code development, no expertise required. Just one app and a few taps. What might we find with potentially 7 billion people doing the research? What conclusions might we be able to reach working together as a global community?
Personally, I've found that there are people who have a naturally ability to see things that other people tend to overlook. And once those people point it out, it becomes immediately visible to the rest of us. As a husband and dad, I often can't even find a gallon of milk in the refrigerator. I know what it looks like and generally where it is, but milk hides in plain sight. Maybe, just maybe, we need a bunch of proverbial wives and kids to come to the rescue and point out the obvious. Then we can all work together to analyze it like crazy.
SETI likely isn't quite that simple, but maybe it doesn't have to be as hard as it's been. Anytime you're looking for something important, it always helps to have extra people involved. That's the whole point of Breakthrough Listen, to open up SETI to the public. And it's now feasible to have everyone join in.