(ORDO NEWS) — Researchers may have pinpointed the source of the famous alleged alien transmission discovered almost half a century ago.
The outstanding and still mysterious Wow! the signal that sounded briefly into the radio telescope on the night of August 15, 1977, could come from a sun-like star located at a distance of 1,800 light years in the constellation Sagittarius.
The “Wow! signal is considered to be the best SETI candidate radio signal we have detected with our telescopes,” Alberto Caballero, an amateur astronomer.
SETI, or the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, is an area that since the mid-20th century, according to NASA, has been listening to possible messages from otherworldly technological beings.
Appearing during the search for SETI on Ohio State University’s Big Ear telescope, the Wow! The signal was incredibly strong, but very short, lasting only 1 minute and 12 seconds, according to a report written by its discoverer, astronomer Jerry Eman, in honor of his 30th birthday.
Seeing a printout of the anomalous signal, Eman scribbled “Wow!” on the page, giving the event its name. The now dismantled Big Ear telescope was looking for messages in the electromagnetic frequency range of 1420.4056 megahertz, which is produced by the element hydrogen.
“Since hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, there is good logic in assuming that an intelligent civilization within our Milky Way galaxy wishing to draw attention to itself could transmit a strong narrow-band beacon signal at or near the frequency of the neutral hydrogen line,” he wrote. Eman in his anniversary report.
Since then, researchers have repeatedly searched for extensions originating from the same location, but they have been found to be empty, according to the history of the American Astronomical Society. Signal “Wow! The signal was most likely caused by some natural phenomenon, not aliens,” Caballero told Live Science, although astronomers have ruled out several possible origins, such as a passing comet.
However, Caballero noted that in our infrequent attempts to say hello to ETs, humans have mostly made one-off transmissions, such as the Arecibo message sent towards the globular star cluster M13 in 1974. Signal “Wow! The signal may have been something similar,” he added.
Knowing that the two receivers of the Big Ear Telescope were pointing towards the constellation Sagittarius on the night of the Wow! Caballero decided to look through the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite catalog of stars for possible candidates.
“I found only one star that looks like the Sun,” he said. The object, designated 2MASS 19281982-2640123, is about 1,800 light-years away and has a temperature, diameter, and luminosity almost identical to our own stellar companion. The results of Caballero’s research are published May 6 in the International Journal of Astrobiology.
Although living organisms can exist in a variety of environments around stars quite unlike ours, he chose to focus on stars similar to the Sun because “we are looking for life as we know it.” Given the results, he believes that “it would be nice to search [the star] for habitable planets and even civilizations.”
“I think it’s worth doing because we want to point our tools in the direction of things that we find interesting,” Rebecca Charbonneau, a historian who studies SETI at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and was not involved in the work, told Live Science. “There are billions of stars in the galaxy, and we have to come up with some way to narrow them down,” she added.
But she wonders if searching for only sun-like stars is too limiting. “Why not just look at a bunch of stars?” she asks.
Humans only have one data point, Charbonneau said, which is ourselves when considering what technology aliens might have or how they might use those technologies. The concept of SETI itself appeared in the middle of the 20th century, shortly after the military around the world began to transmit messages using powerful electromagnetic devices.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the moment in human history when we start sending intelligent signals into space coincides with the moment we have the idea of looking for intelligent signals from space,” Charbonneau said.
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