The Wow! Signal's origin from the constellation Sagittarius. Image Credit: The Planetary Society.

Wow! Signal Likely Originated From Habitable Solar System

A researcher has pinpointed the origin of the mysterious Wow! signal to a habitable solar system located in the constellation Sagittarius.

Scientists have been baffled by the “Wow!” signal since it was discovered in 1977. Since the discovery, we have not really known where exactly the signal originated from. There were several theories and we had an approximate idea. Now, a paper published by Alberto Caballero, a Habitable Exoplanet Hunting Project researcher, suggests the enigmatic alien signal originated from a potentially habitable star system, one that could have a planet where life exists.

On August 15, 1977, at 11:16 p.m., the Big Ear radio telescope received a radio signal of unknown origin. This signal is believed to have lasted 72 seconds, and it originated from the eastern part of the constellation Sagittarius. Its intensity was 30 times higher than the background noise.

According to the protocol used, this signal was not recorded but instead was registered by the observatory’s computer on a section of continuous paper designed for this purpose.

The Big Ear telescope –which is no longer in function — was tasked with searching the cosmos for messages in the electromagnetic frequency band of 1420.4056 megahertz, produced by the element hydrogen.

A few days later, the young Ohio State University professor Jerry R. Ehman, who was volunteering on the SETI project by reviewing computer records, discovered the strongest anomalous signal ever detected by a radio telescope.

The signal was known as Wow! due to Ehman’s annotation on the continuous paper, characterizing his surprise and emotion. The sequence of the said signal was: 6EQUJ5.

Decades later, researchers still have no idea where exactly it came from or what caused it, spawning a host of theories all along, from it being a pair of passing comets—which has since been debunked—to the ultimate proof that we are not alone in the universe.

The Wow! Signal’s origin — a habitable star system?

Now, astronomer Alberto Caballero has searched data collected by the European Space Agency’s Gaia space observatory to zero in on a candidate star system where the signal could come from, as detailed in a new study published in the International Journal of Astrobiology.

The objective was to determine if there were any habitable star systems within the region where the Wow! signal came from, based on the assumption that “it came from a star system similar to ours.”

Caballero managed to narrow down the search to a single Sun-like star called 2MASS 19281982-2640123, located 1,800 light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius. It is likely to have a broad habitable zone, and there could be a world similar to ours in orbit around it.

While it’s certainly a bit of a stretch—Caballero makes some pretty broad assumptions to arrive at this candidate—other astronomers say he’s not as crazy as he seems.

However, if we look at 2MASS 19281982-2640123 with our telescopes and detect a habitable planet from which the Wow! signal may have been emitted, it would take hundreds of years for our answer to arrive.

In the meantime, Caballero suggests looking for exoplanets and technosignatures—technological signs of extraterrestrial intelligence—in that system and in other candidates.

According to the American Astronomical Society’s history, scientists have tried repeatedly to find follow-ups originating from the same place but have been unsuccessful.
This has led many experts to suggest that the Wow! Signal most likely originated from some kind of natural event and is not a call from advanced alien civilizations.

Previously, astronomers have suggested all kinds of theories to explain the origin of the Wow! signal. In an interview with “Centauri Dreams,” plasma physicist James Benford explains his paper presented for publishing in the Journal Astrobiology and reveals why he believes there are arguments in favor of the Wow! signal being created by an alien craft.

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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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