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  • richardmitnick 2:35 pm on June 1, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , OSU The big Ear, , WOW signal 1977   

    From Forbes: “Astronomers Still Can’t Rule Out SETI’s ‘Wow!’ Signal” 


    Forbes Magazine

    May 31, 2017
    Bruce Dorminey

    Nearly four decades after it was received, astronomers still can’t say with 100% certainty that the ‘Wow!’ signal was not an interstellar radio beacon from some far-flung extraterrestrial civilization. But the signal — which got the Wow! moniker after an astronomer first scribbled those letters in the margins of the incoming data — was never reacquired.

    Even so, Bob Dixon, Ohio State University’s (SETI) Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence program director at the time, once told me that the signal had to have at least originated at distance beyond the Moon.

    The Milky Way and the constellation of Sagittarius. Credit: Terrence Dickinson via NASA

    What is known is that the signal was received just after 11 PM local time on August 15, 1977, at OSU’s now defunct Big Ear Radio Observatory.

    Ohio State Big Ear Radio Telescope

    Its position on the sky came from the direction of the star cluster M55 in the constellation of Sagittarius. Yet more importantly, it closely-matched the narrow emission line of hydrogen at 1420 megahertz , a radio-quiet spot long touted as a potential interstellar hailing frequency for E.T. civilizations. And at the time, it was also the strongest such SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) candidate signal ever seen.

    “So, ‘Wow!’ was appropriate,” Dan Werthimer, chief scientist at the University of California at Berkeley’s SETI program, told me.

    SETI@home, BOINC project at UC Berkeley Space Science Lab

    But he says it would be more convincing if the signal had appeared one after another along the Big Ear’s two different radio observing beams.

    That, says Werthimer, would be more of an indication that it was an artificial radio beacon from an interstellar point source. But we occasionally see Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) that’s modulated in just the right way that makes it look like it is consistent with a distant point source, says Werthimer. But as he emphasizes, if the signal were really from E.T. and was in the telescope’s observing sights for at least a few minutes, the source of the signal should have moved from one beam into the other.

    “It didn’t,” said Werthimer. “So, I’m 99% confident that the signal the OSU guys saw was RFI.”

    Still, there’s another possibility and that is that the signal did originate from beyond the moon, but was produced by two active comets orbiting within our solar system. That is, within the vicinity of the ‘Wow!’ signal’s position on the sky.

    A 2015 paper published by The Washington Academy of Sciences proposed that during that summer of 1977, comets 266P/Christensen and P/2008 Y2 (Gibbs) “were transiting in the neighborhood of the Chi Sagittarii star group” and produced by a large hydrogen cloud around their nucleus. Because the frequency for the ‘Wow!’ signal fell close to the radio emission for hydrogen, the paper noted that these local cometary hydrogen clouds would be strong candidates as the signal’s source.

    The comet hypothesis sounds somewhat plausible, but I still don’t buy it. If this cometary phenomena were at all statistically frequent, researchers would likely have picked up something similar over the last 50 years. And to my knowledge, this is the first time that anyone has argued that such narrowband emission is from a comet.

    My personal best guess is that the signal was not RFI. But more likely, it was the product of some very distant or unusual and/or poorly-understood astrophysical phenomenon.

    Credit: Wikipedia

    That’s not to say that E.T. isn’t out there somewhere. But the likelihood that we would only receive a lone radio beacon, that’s never repeated and could never be reacquired, also seems implausible.

    Most people can live with the fact that there may be no one out there. Some prefer the notion that we are the ultimate undiscovered country in a cosmos teeming with intelligent life. But few like the idea that we narrowly missed E.T.’s one-off phone call.

    Werthimer, however, says either the ‘Wow!’ signal’s rise and fall in strength was actually intrinsic to the signal, in which case he says it would have to be RFI. Or if the signal were from a distant source, he says, then it would be constant in power and its rise and fall in strength would be due to Earth’s rotation.

    The remote possibility that it’s the real thing is what makes the ‘Wow!’ signal so haunting . You can dismiss it as Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) until the cows come home. But as Werthimer himself reluctantly acknowledged: “We can’t rule out E.T.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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  • richardmitnick 8:40 am on May 15, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , WOW signal 1977   

    From livescience: “Alien ‘Wow!’ Signal Could Soon be Explained” 


    April 19, 2016 [this just appeared in social media]
    Ian O’Neill

    A color scan of the original computer printout of the “Wow!” signal as detected by the Big Ear Radio Observatory in 1977.
    Credit: Big Ear Radio Observatory and North American Astrophysical Observatory (NAAPO)

    The story behind the famous “Wow!” signal has an eerie quality that has inspired countless science fiction alien encounters and is often lauded as one of the strongest pieces of evidence that we are, in fact, not alone in the universe.

    However, its “alien intelligence” authenticity has been questioned since that fabled night on Aug. 15, 1977 at 10:16 p.m. ET when astronomer Jerry Ehman used the Ohio State University’s Big Ear radio telescope to sweep the skies for signals that may have originated from an extraterrestrial civilization.

    Ohio State Big Ear Radio Telescope

    On that night, Ehman found something. And since that night, astronomers have been trying to figure out what it means.

    While pointed in the direction of 3 star systems named Chi Sagittarii, in the constellation of Sagittarius, Big Ear detected a 72 second radio wave burst, a signal far stronger than background noise. On the observatory’s computer printout, Ehman circled the burst with the infamous annotation “Wow!”

    This excitement wasn’t an overstatement, it was this kind of signal he was looking for, the kind of signal astronomers thought a technologically-capable alien civilization would produce.

    The Big Ear printout contains a bunch of apparently random numbers and letters, but Ehman’s red pen circles a cluster of digits “6EQUJ5” with other circles around a “6” and “7” on separate columns. This particular code first uses the numbers 1-9 and then the alphabet A-Z to denote signal strength. As the burst suggests, the signal strength hit “6” and then blasted through the letters reaching a peak of “U” before subsiding back into the numerical scale at “5.” There was then a slight wave trailing the main signal (hence the circled “6″ and “7”). The wave profile of the “Wow!” signal is graphically envisaged here.

    However, since that day in 1977, a detection of a signal of that strength has not been replicated. Even after the SETI Institute was founded in 1984, and countless efforts have been made to find another radio burst like the “Wow!” signal, astronomers have been faced with silence in the cosmos; a problem that has only served to intensify the Fermi Paradox unease.

    SETI Institute

    Now, Antonio Paris of St Petersburg College, Fla., an ex-analyst of the US Department of Defense, hopes to solve the mystery and he suspects that an entirely different cosmic phenomenon is to blame.

    In an interview with The Guardian.com, Paris says that his investigative background sent him on a mission to find another possible explanation for the “Wow!” signal and he tracked down two “suspicious” comets that may have been in the vicinity of Chi Sagittarii on Aug. 15, 1977. Interestingly, these comets, called 266P/Christensen and 335P/Gibbs, were only discovered in 2006 and 2008, so weren’t considered as possible reasons for the signal in 1977 as no one knew of their existence.

    But what have comets got to do with errant radio bursts?

    The “Wow!” signal was recorded in the 1420MHz radio frequency band. It just so happens that cosmic neutral hydrogen naturally radiates at this frequency — it is therefore an abundant signal that is commonly used in astronomy. This is no coincidence; through alien-hunting logic, should there be an extraterrestrial species wanting to make contact, what frequency would they use? Firstly, as we only have ourselves to use as an alien template, we have to assume that hypothetical aliens will likely use radio waves. Secondly, if they are using radio waves to communicate with us, they would likely use a frequency that other intelligent aliens would be naturally tuned into. 1420MHz is the “universal water cooler,” where intelligent life could check into and potentially chat.

    The bummer is, however, that comets contain copious amounts of hydrogen in their atmospheres. Say if the “Wow!” signal was actually caused by the chance passage of a comet through the radio telescope’s field of view, packing a powerful radio surge?

    In 2017, Comet 266P will once again orbit in front of Chi Sagittarii and Comet 335P will do so the following year and Paris wants to test this hypothesis. Unfortunately, existing radio telescopes are already booked, so he has to buy or build his own radio antennae in time for the cosmic encounters. He has a crowdfunding campaign set up to raise the $20,000 he needs and is most of the way there.

    It may be a long shot, but as is the way with many astronomical studies, all possible phenomena need to be ruled out before a discovery is made and, should Paris’ experiment prove the “Wow!” signal was in fact caused by interference by an undiscovered comet, the universe will get quieter once again, making the Fermi Paradox even more bewildering.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

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