Eminent physicist Stephen Hawking has commented on the large cigar-shaped asteroid dubbed Oumuamua, which is defined as the first-ever confirmed interstellar object in recorded history that flew through our solar system this October.
Hawking stated that this unidentified flying object is something Earthlings should be aware of as it could be a part of an alien probe or an unseen natural phenomenon.
"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 minimise friction and damage from interstellar gas and dust," Hawking told Daily Star.
"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 artefact," he added.
The interstellar space rock is popular amid astrophysicists, astronomers and conspiracy theorists because of its unknown origin.
Recently, researchers from SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) too had planned to turn a powerful dish telescope towards this mysterious cigar-shaped asteroid.
Oumuamua means "a messenger from afar arriving first" in the Hawaiian language.
The statements made by Hawking are based on the findings from the largest-ever scientific research programme – Breakthrough Listen – which aims at finding proofs regarding civilisations beyond Earth.
Breakthrough Listen is a £74 million project which uses the world's largest manoeuvrable radio telescope. This project focuses on tracking the movement of the interstellar asteroid.
Avi Loeb, professor of astronomy at Harvard University and a member of the Breakthrough Listen initiative, explained the importance of their team's efforts.
"The chances that we'll hear something are very small, but if we do, we will report it immediately and then try to interpret it," Loeb said.
"It would be prudent just to check and look for signals. Even if we find an artefact that was left over and there are no signs of life on it, that would be the greatest thrill I can imagine having in my lifetime."
"It's really one of the fundamental questions in science, perhaps the most fundamental: are we alone?" he concluded.