A Serendipitous MWA Search for Narrowband Signals from 'Oumuamua

S. J. Tingay, D. L. Kaplan, E. Lenc, S. Croft, B. McKinley, A. Beardsley, B. Crosse, D. Emrich, T. M.O. Franzen, B. M. Gaensler, L. Horsley, M. Johnston-Hollitt, D. Kenney, M. F. Morales, D. Pallot, K. Steele, C. M. Trott, M. Walker, R. B. Wayth, A. WilliamsC. Wu

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14 Citations (Scopus)


We examine data from the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) in the frequency range 72-102 MHz for a field of view that serendipitously contained the interstellar object 'Oumuamua on 2017 November 28. Observations took place with a time resolution of 0.5 s and a frequency resolution of 10 kHz. Based on the interesting but highly unlikely suggestion that 'Oumuamua is an interstellar spacecraft, due to some unusual orbital and morphological characteristics, we examine our data for signals that might indicate the presence of intelligent life associated with 'Oumuamua. We searched our radio data for (1) impulsive narrowband signals, (2) persistent narrowband signals, and (3) impulsive broadband signals. We found no such signals with nonterrestrial origins and make estimates of the upper limits on equivalent isotropic radiated power (EIRP) for these three cases of approximately 7 kW, 840 W, and 100 kW, respectively. These transmitter powers are well within the capabilities of human technologies, and are therefore plausible for alien civilizations. While the chances of positive detection in any given search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) experiment are vanishingly small, the characteristics of new generation telescopes such as the MWA (and, in the future, the Square Kilometre Array) make certain classes of SETI experiments easy, or even a trivial by-product of astrophysical observations. This means that the future costs of SETI experiments are very low, allowing large target lists to partially balance the low probability of a positive detection.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Apr 2018


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