Aliens may have sent a ‘strong message’ from deep in space, scientists claim | Science | News | The Independent


A new signal has been found deep in space that could come from alien life. The community of astronomers and scientists who scan the skies with telescopes in an attempt to find extraterrestrial life is abuzz with excitement over a “strong signal” detected deep in space that could come from an alien civilisation. Scientists are cautioning people not to get quite too excited – at least not yet. The evidence remains preliminary and more work will need to be done to establish if it is not just a mistake, let alone whether it’s actually an extraterrestrial communication.

 

The message appears to have come from a nearby star, HD164595, in the constellation Hercules. That star is 95 light years away – relatively close at the scale of the universe – and almost exactly the same size as Earth.

What’s more, that same star has at least one planet, HD164595b, which is roughly the size of Neptune and has a 40-day year. It’s this planet that has people excited, since it appears that it could have the right conditions for supporting life.

The signal came to public attention after it had been noted by science fiction author Paul Gilster, who maintains a blog that looks at deep space exploration and alien life. Until then it had gone unremarked – the signal was actually detected in May last year, and was only brought to light after a presentation by the scientists who found it.

Claudio Maccone of Turin University in Italy attended a talk by the two scientists, who work at Russia’s Ratan-600 telescope. He passed that data on to Mr Gilster, who then wrote up his blog describing what had been found.

Possible second Earth discovered

“No one is claiming that this is the work of an extraterrestrial civilisation, but it is certainly worth further study,” wrote Mr Gilster on his site Centauri Dreams.

He wrote that the strength of the signal might suggest that it came from a Kardashev Type II civilisation. The Kardeshev scale indicates how advanced an alien civilisation might be: a Type I civilisation can use and store energy from a nearby star as we can, whereas a Type II civilisation can harness the energy of the entire star and would be far more advanced than mankind.

“Working out the strength of the signal, the researchers say that if it came from an isotropic beacon, it would be of a power possible only for a Kardashev Type II civilisation. If it were a narrow beam signal focused on our solar system, it would be of a power available to a Kardashev Type I civilisation,” Mr Gilster said.

He did acknowledge that the signal might have been noise rather than an actual signal.

‘Wow!’ Again? SETI Mystery Signal Could Long Puzzle Astronomers

‘Wow!’ Again? SETI Mystery Signal Could Long Puzzle Astronomers

'Wow!' Again? SETI Mystery Signal Could Long Puzzle Astronomers

The Allen Telescope Array at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute has been listening for signals that may indicate that sophisticated alien civilizations are trying to communicate.

Credit: SETI Institute

recently detected SETI signal could end up being this generation’s version of the famous “Wow!” signal of 1977: an intriguing mystery that keeps astronomers guessing for decades.

In May 2015, a team of researchers using a Russian radio telescope spotted a strong radio signal coming from the vicinity of the sunlike star HD 164595, which lies 94 light-years away from Earth.

The signal is consistent with something an alien civilization might send out, astronomers have said. But that’s just one scenario, and not the most likely one, researchers cautioned; the signal may also have resulted from a natural celestial event or terrestrial interference of some sort. [Stephen Colbert’s WOW! Alien Signal Response (Video)]

Without a follow-up detection or confirmation, humanity may never know the signal’s true origin, said Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, California. (Shostak was not part of the detection team.)

“If they can’t find it again, and if we [at SETI] can’t find it, all we can say is, ‘Gosh, I wonder what it was,'” Shostak told Space.com.

That’s pretty much all that astronomers can say about the Wow! signal, a 72-second-long event picked up by the Big Ear radio observatory at The Ohio State University in August 1977.

The 1977 signal received its name after a volunteer astronomer named Jerry Ehman wrote “Wow!” on a computer printout of the signal’s transmission record. Ehman made the comment after finding the radio signal was 30 times stronger than background emissions.

Astronomers never discovered any evidence linking the Wow! signal to an alien civilization, and, despite recent efforts from the SETI Institute, a repeat detection of that signal has not been made. Researchers did conclude the signal was coming from the direction of the constellation Sagittarius.

When volunteer astronomer Jerry Ehman found that a signal detected in 1977 was 30 times more powerful than the average radiation from deep space, he wrote "Wow!" on the computer printout, as photographed here.
When volunteer astronomer Jerry Ehman found that a signal detected in 1977 was 30 times more powerful than the average radiation from deep space, he wrote “Wow!” on the computer printout, as photographed here.

Credit: The Ohio State University Radio Observatory and the North American AstroPhysical Observatory (NAAPO)

 

“There are going to be signals that you see once and don’t see again,” Shostak added. “It’s like people who see ghosts. If you see it once, but when you go back, with a camera and all that, it’s not there, what do you conclude from that?”

The May 2015 and Wow! signals are analogous in another way, Shostak said: Both seemed to appear and then disappear quite quickly. This doesn’t seem consistent with a signal from an orbiting satellite, which would be in range of the radio telescope for longer stretches, he said.

“The thought is: Well, that wouldn’t be a satellite. A satellite would be on, and maybe it’d be on for a minute or something like that. It wouldn’t just go up and down right away,” Shostak said.

Astronomers know that HD 164595 houses a roughly Neptune-mass world, but this close-orbiting planet is likely far too hot to host life as it exists on Earth. But it’s possible that other planets lie undiscovered in the system, Shostak said.

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The team of astronomers who spotted the May 2015 signal apparently studied the HD 164595  system 39 different times but made just the one detection, Shostak said. The detection team has not yet published a study of its findings. Instead, the researchers plan to discuss the signal next month at the 67th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Guadalajara, Mexico.

The detection of the May 2015 signal was made public on Aug. 27 by Centauri Dreams’ Paul Gilster, who wrote that one of the astronomers on the detection team forwarded him the IAC presentation.

In hopes of learning more about this possible extraterrestrial signal, astronomers from the SETI Institute focused the Allen Telescope Array in California at HD 164595 Sunday night (Aug. 28) and Monday night (Aug. 29), Shostak said.

Follow Samantha Mathewson @Sam_Ashley13. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.

“The possibility of noise of one form or another cannot be ruled out, and researchers in Paris led by Jean Schneider are considering the possible microlensing of a background source by HD164595. But the signal is provocative enough that the RATAN-600 researchers are calling for permanent monitoring of this target.”

The Russian scientists who first found the signal wrote in their presentation that the probability of it being noise was low. As such, it should be permanently monitored by Seti scientists to see whether more can be learned about the star and its planet, they said.

Some at Seti – the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, which is a collective of scientists looking to find transmissions from alien life – have already squashed the possibility of alien communications.

“I was unimpressed,” wrote Eric Korpela, an astronomer who works closely on the Seti project. “Because the receivers used were making broad band measurements, there’s really nothing about this ‘signal’ that would distinguish it from a natural radio transient”, he wrote, pointing to the fact that it could equally have been caused by a stellar flare, active galactic nucleus, microlensing of a background source, or something else entirely.

“There’s also nothing that could distinguish it from a satellite passing through the telescope field of view,” he wrote in a post aimed at trying to temper the excitement . “All in all, it’s relatively uninteresting from a Seti standpoint.”

Hawking launches alien search

Mr Korpela said that SETI@home – the project that lets people volunteer their computers to search for life elsewhere in the universe – picks up “millions of potential signals with similar characteristics, but it takes more than that to make a good candidate”. The new potential star didn’t even satisfy the minimum criterion – that it should be detected multiple times.

If it isn’t heard again then it might be something like the “WOW” signal, received in 1977. That was a powerful radio signal that came from a group of stars called Chi Sagittarii. The astronomer who discovered it, Jerry Ehman, circled it and wrote WOW next to it to mark it for future study, but the message was never detected again.

Seti scientists hope to hear more from the star by using the Allen Telescope Array, a huge system that can be used to look for messages that indicate alien intelligence. It was pointed towards the star over the weekend but has not as yet found any signal.

“However, we have not yet covered the full range of frequencies in which the signal could be located, if it’s of far narrower bandwidth than the Russian 1 GHz receiver,” Seti wrote. “We intend to completely cover this big swath of the radio dial in the next day or two. A detection, of course, would immediately spur the Seti and radio astronomy communities to do more follow-up observations.”

Seti hopes that those observations can be enough to learn more about the star system that the signal is supposedly coming from.

“So what’s the bottom line?” asked Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at Seti. “Could it be another society sending a signal our way?  Of course, that’s possible.

“However, there are many other plausible explanations for this claimed transmission, including terrestrial interference. Without a confirmation of this signal, we can only say that it’s ‘interesting’.”

Source: Aliens may have sent a ‘strong message’ from deep in space, scientists claim | Science | News | The Independent

 

 

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