Scientists are looking for alien signals from the bizarre-looking asteroid that is the first to visit our solar system from another place. ESO/M. Kornmesser

The first known asteroid to travel here from another solar system isn’t coasting through space as much as it is tumbling across the cosmos, possibly after a violent crash many years ago set it into chaotic motion.

A new study in the journal Nature Astronomy describes the interstellar rock, known as ‘Oumuamua and the first scientists have ever discovered that has an origin outside the solar system, as being “in an excited rotational state undergoing non-principal axis rotation, or tumbling.”

According to the study, ‘Oumuamua has been on its tumbling journey through space for perhaps billions of years.

Scientists first identified the alien asteroid a few months ago, saying that a collision or explosion of some kind may have thrown it out of its own planetary system and into the harsh emptiness of space, before it eventually found its way here. Its trajectory suggests it came from the direction of Vega, a bright star in the constellation Lyra, but the distance from our solar system is so great that the asteroid would have been in that part of the sky when Vega was somewhere else.

Experts have also searched it for signs of extraterrestrial life.

‘Oumuamua has an oblong shape, leading people to compare it to a cigar or a cucumber. It is also dark red in color.

“Our modeling of this body suggests the tumbling will last for many billions of years to hundreds of billions of years before internal stresses cause it to rotate normally again,” researcher Wes Fraser said in a statement from Queen’s University Belfast. “While we don’t know the cause of the tumbling, we predict that it was most likely sent tumbling by an impact with another planetesimal in its system, before it was ejected into interstellar space.”

According to the scientists, the tumbling explains why ‘Oumuamua has shown such variations in its coloring during different measurements — it was showing different faces to the scientists observing it.

“Our results are really helping to paint a more complete picture of this strange interstellar interloper,” Fraser said. “It is quite unusual compared to most asteroids and comets we see in our own solar system.”