It's unlikely that the first object found to have visited our solar system from interstellar space is carrying a message from aliens, but scientists will listen for one anyway. Beginning Wednesday, the Green Bank telescope in West Virginia will observe the mysterious cigar-shaped 'Oumuamua across four radio transmission bands, from 1 to 12 GHz, as part of the Breakthrough Listen project searching for evidence of alien life, reports the Guardian. 'Oumuamua—Hawaiian for "a messenger from afar arriving first," per NASA—was first spotted by scientists in Hawaii in October as it sped past Earth at an astronomical stone's throw, per a release. It's now twice as far from Earth as the sun and scheduled to pass through Jupiter's orbit in May 2018, but close enough that the Green Bank telescope can detect even the faintest radio transmissions.
'Oumuamua is estimated to be up to 10 times as long as it is wide, and the press release notes that researchers have theorized that an interstellar spacecraft would be of similar shape, so as to reduce friction and damage from space debris. While project adviser Avi Loeb of Harvard acknowledges "most likely it is of natural origin"—it's widely believed to be an asteroid—he says that because of its curious shape, "we would like to check if it has any sign of artificial origin, such as radio emissions." Even if the Green Bank telescope fails to pick up any signal or other suggestion of "extraterrestrial technology," all will not be for naught: The Breakthrough Listen project's work may reveal more about 'Oumuamua's chemistry, including whether it carries signs of water. ('Oumuamua is likely not alone.)