A controversial new study published in the International Journal of Astrobiology, suggests that a potentially habitable Sun-like star 1,800 light-years away could be the source of the mysterious “Wow!” discovered nearly half a century ago.
The Wow! signal, a 72-second data sequence of narrowband radio waves, was detected by Jerry Ehman using the Big Ear Telescope at Ohio State University on August 15, 1977. Due to nature unusual signal, Ehman, sensing it, wrote down “Wow!” in the margin of your print. This is how the confusing signal got its name which has stuck ever since.
“The Wow! signal is considered the best candidate radio signal for SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) that we have captured with our telescopes,” Alberto Caballero, amateur astronomer and author of the study, told Science Media. Life sciences.
Frequencies close to the hydrogen line
The only signal – no other signal like this has been detected before or since – was at a frequency of 1420.4056 megahertz, a frequency associated with the element hydrogen, which is relatively free of background noise, which actually a good range to choose from if we are trying to communicate with other civilizations.
“Since hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, it is logical to assume that an intelligent civilization within our galaxy, the Milky Way, eager to draw attention to itself, could emit a strong narrowband beacon signal at or near the neutral hydrogen line frequency,” Ehman wrote in a report on the 30th anniversary of the Wow! signal, according to Life sciences.
The Wow! signal, an unsolved mystery
Decades after its detection, researchers still don’t know exactly where the signal came from or what caused it. Now that could change: astronomer Alberto Caballero has analyzed thousands of stars in the area where the famous signal came from and has come up with a new clue to solve the mystery.
Sifting through data collected by the European Space Agency’s Gaia Space Observatory – a database of more than a billion stars – Caballero narrowed down his search for stars that could host an exoplanet with the potential for life. to a single star similar to the Sun, called 2MASS 19281982 -2640123, located 1,800 light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius.
Although this type of research carried out by the astronomer was not designed to know exactly what it is, for example, if it comes from a natural source, the work aims to restrict the research in case it would come from an extraterrestrial civilization, according to Mr. in a video on his popular YouTube page The Exoplanet channel, as well as in your article.
SETI, or Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, is a field that has been listening for possible messages from otherworldly technological beings since the mid-20th century, according to NASA.
As Caballero assured living sciences, probably the Wow! come from some kind of natural event and not from extraterrestrials, although the scientist does not lose hope.
“Although this star is located too far away to send a response in the form of radio transmission or light, it could be an excellent target for observations in search of exoplanets around the star,” he wrote in the article.
“One of these stars is very close to the distance with the greatest probability that an extraterrestrial civilization exists,” he added in a video. “This star is estimated to be only 5 degrees hotter than the Sun, and nearly identical in radius and luminosity. It makes an excellent target for searching for potentially habitable exoplanets.”
“Find a way to narrow the search”
Although the whole study seems a bit far-fetched, other astronomers say Caballero’s observations aren’t as crazy as they seem.
“I think it’s worth it because we want to aim our instruments at things that we think are interesting,” he said. living sciences Rebecca Charbonneau, a historian at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and SETI expert who was not involved in Caballero’s research.
“There are billions of stars in the galaxy, and we need to find a way to shrink them,” he added.
However, Charbonnaeu advocates going further and wonders if the search only for sun-like stars is not too limited. Why not look at a bunch of stars?, he wondered.
Although many want to finally have serious proof that intelligent life exists in the universe, Caballero’s findings should be seen as just one more small piece that could help solve the mystery. However, taking a closer look at the stars Caballero identified wouldn’t hurt. Ultimately, our search for other intelligent life in the universe has to start somewhere.
Edited by Felipe Espinosa Wang.