On the night of August 15, 1977 -- now 45 years ago -- at 03:16 UTC, astronomer Jerry Ehman used the large radio telescope at State University of Ohio to sweep the skies for signs that might have originated from an extraterrestrial civilization. And boy did he find something.
45 years ago today, humankind encountered what is, without a reason of a doubt, one of the most mysterious alien signals from Deep Space. Known as the Wow! Signal, it has inspired countless theories, books, movies, and TV shows.
The signal, however, did not repeat, and its origin remains a mystery to date, even though many experts have proposed it may have come from an advanced extraterrestrial civilization. Was this the case? Did the Signal really come from an advanced alien civilization attempting to communicate with potential lifeforms in the vastness of the universe?
This is something that has been debated and questioned since that night on August 15, 1977 — now 45 years ago — at 03:16 UTC, when astronomer Jerry Ehman used the large radio telescope at State University of Ohio to sweep the skies for signs that might have originated from an extraterrestrial civilization.
There was something Ehman found that night. Astronomers have been trying to figure out what it means ever since that night.
Where did the signal come from? At the time of the discovery, when the signal was intercepted, the telescope was pointing in the direction of three star systems called Chi Sagittarii, in the constellation of Sagittarius. As the Telescope was sweeping the sky, it detected a 72-second burst of radio waves, a signal much stronger than background noise.
On the observatory’s computer printout, Ehman wrote the notation Wow! for what the signal would eventually be known.
The enthusiasm he expressed was not exaggerated; it was exactly the kind of signal astronomers believe would come from a technologically advanced civilization.
The print produced by the “Big Ear” the nickname for the Ohio State University radio telescope, features a series of seemingly random numbers and digits. In that piece of paper, Ehman outlines a cluster of digits “6EQUJ5” and an additional series of circles around the numbers 6 and 7.
Signal strength is denoted first by the numbers 1-9, then by the alphabet from A-Z.
This burst indicates that the signal strength reached “6,” then burst through the letters to reach a peak of “U” before returning up the numerical scale to “5”. There was then a ripple out of the main signal (circled “6” and “7”).
However, since 1977, no signal has been detected from that region of space. The SETI Institute was founded in 1984, and astronomers have made innumerable attempts to find another similar radio signal burst. However, no similar signals have been detected, adding to the Fermi Paradox’s discomfort.
A skeptical Ehman recently suggested that the signal might be associated with a mysterious FRB (Fast Radio Burst) and not an advanced alien civilization. An uncatalogued comet may have been the source of the signal, according to astronomer Antonio Paris at St. Petersburg College in Florida.
However, Plasma Physicist James Benford has revealed he believes that the Wow! Signal may in fact have come from an alien spacecraft.
A plasma physicist reveals in an interview with “Centauri Dreams” why he believes the Wow! signal may have come from an alien spacecraft. Benford explains his paper to be published in the Journal Astrobiology. “The Wow! could have been leakage from an interstellar power beam. I propose that this class of radiation, which is not widely understood, can explain the Wow’s observed features! signal,” writes Benford.
In a scientific paper published by Alberto Caballero, a researcher with the Habitable Exoplanet Hunting Project, it is suggested that the enigmatic alien signal originated from a potentially habitable star system.
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