Scientists, alien hunters study mysterious signal from nearby star

Though detecting radio signals from space happens regularly, they almost always have a mundane origin. But this signal's direction of origin and frequency changes have scientists excited.

The planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our Solar System, is seen in an undated artist's impression released by the European Southern Observatory August 24, 2016. (photo credit: ESO/M. KORNMESSER/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

Have radio signals of alien origin finally been found?

That is the question astronomers are seeking to answer, after radio waves were detected apparently originating from the direction of Proxima Centauri, the star closest to our sun, The Guardian reported Friday.

 

Radio waves are often detected by astronomers attempting to scan space for them, and they usually have man-made or natural explanations.

It’s possible that the recently detected signal, first found during 30 hours of observation at the Parkes telescope in Australia in April and May 2019, could have a similar explanation. But there is something about this particular signal that has scientists at the Breakthrough Listen project, the most extensive search for alien life and funded by Israeli-Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner, excited: Its direction, being around 980Hz and frequency shift, according to The Guardian.

The latter is especially exciting, as the frequency change is consistent with a planet’s movement. This is especially notable, as surrounding Proxima Centauri, a red dwarf star 4.2 light years away, is a rocky world 17% larger than Earth known as Proxima b, which lies in the “habitable zone” allowing for the existence of flowing and pooling water.

 

No trace of the beam has been spotted since it was first detected, but scientists are still excited.

 

While most radio broadcasts have explanations irrelevant to the possible existence of extraterrestrial life forms, there is one that has stood the test of time and scientific advancement, and continues to defy explanation. Discovered in the 1977 at Ohio State University, a radio signal was detected in just a small 72-second window. Dubbed the “Wow! signal,” the signal seemed to have originated from the Sagittarius constellation, and despite many attempts at researching it, there is no universally agreed upon explanation for the signal’s existence.

Could this be the next Wow! signal? It’s possible, and some scientists with knowledge of the situation seem to think so, according to The Guardian. But others are more cautious, claiming that many Earth-made objects and technology could have created it and stressed caution before coming to conclusions.

“If you see such a signal and it’s not coming from the surface of Earth, you know you have detected extraterrestrial technology,” Jason Wright, a SETI-centric astronomer at Penn State University in Pennsylvania, told Scientific American.

“Unfortunately, humans have launched a lot of extraterrestrial technology.”

But the news comes in the weeks following the claims by former Israeli space security chief Haim Eshed to Yediot Aharonot that a “Galactic Federation” had been in contact with the US and Israel for years, even having a secret base on Mars, but have refused to let their existence be widely known because “humanity isn’t ready.”

Of course, any attempt at linking the signal with aliens or any other study is purely speculation. And after all, aliens have never been the answer when studying these signals in the past.

But according to Wright, that still doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

“I hate that phrase, because if you say that then why even look,” he told Scientific American. “What we mean by that is that it’s never been aliens before.”

 

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