Researchers may have discovered the source of a supposed alien broadcast last heard nearly a half century ago.
The famous ‘Wow!’ signal was a 72 second-long signal that was caught on a radio telescope in 1977 and considered by alien enthusiats to be proof of intelligent extraterrestrial life.
Now, amateur astronomers have deduced that the signal may have come from a sun-like star located 1,800 light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius.
The Wow! signal was caught during a SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) search at the Ohio State University’s Big Ear telescope and lasted a mere 1 minute and 12 seconds.
Knowing that the Big Ear telescope’s two receivers were pointing in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius on the night the Wow! signal was recorded, Alberto Caballero, an amateur astronomer, decided to search through a catalogue of stars from the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite to look for possible candidates.
‘I found specifically one sun-like star,’ he told Live Science.
An object designated 2MASS 19281982-2640123 about 1,800 light-years away whose temperature, diameter and luminosity is almost identical to the Earth’s Sun.
In Caballero’s findings that appeared in the International Journal of Astrobiology he explaine that he chose to focus on sun-like stars because ‘we’re looking for life as we know it’.
Given his results, he thinks it ‘could be a good idea to search [the star] for habitable planets, and even civilizations.’
Upon seeing a printout of an anomalous signal, at the Ohio State University’s Big Ear telescope astronomer Jerry Ehman scribbled ‘Wow!’ on the page, giving the event its name.
The now-deconstructed Big Ear telescope looked for messages at the electromagnetic frequency band 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 guessing that an intelligent civilization within our Milky Way galaxy desirous of attracting attention to itself might broadcast a strong narrowband beacon signal at or near the frequency of the neutral hydrogen line,’ Ehman wrote in a report in honor of its 30th anniversary.
Researchers have since repeatedly searched for follow-ups originating from the same place, but they have turned up empty, according to a history from the American Astronomical Society.
Despite warnings against it, a group of scientists are embarking on a new project to try and contact extraterrestrial life.
The project consists of an updated message that will be beamed out into the cosmos in the hope of being picked up by alien receivers in an updated version of the original Arecibo message that was transmitted back in 1974.
‘I think this is perfectly worth doing because we want to point our instruments in the direction of things we think are interesting,’ Rebecca Charbonneau, a historian who studies SETI at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and who wasn’t involved in the work, told Live Science.
‘I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the point in human history where we start putting intelligent signals in space is also the same point in history where we get the idea to look for intelligent signals from space,’ Charbonneau said.