Did aliens just try to contact us?
An unexplained blip picked up by a Russian telescope last year could be a message from a distant civilization, sent nearly a century ago.
Astronomers engaged in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) are training their instruments on a star around 94 light years from Earth after a very strong signal was detected by a signal originally detected on May 15, 2015 by the Russian Academy of Science-operated RATAN-600 radio telescope in Zelenchukskaya, Russia.
An international team of researchers is now examining the radio signal and its star, HD 164595 in the hopes of determining its origin. Here is the mysterious signal:
The signal from HD 164595 is intriguing. It comes from the vicinity of a sun-like star, and if it’s artificial, its strength is great enough that it was clearly made by a civilization with capabilities beyond those of humankind. And whenever a strong signal is detected, it’s a good possibility for some nearby civilization to be detected.
Paul Gilster of the Tau Zero Foundation, which conducts interstellar research, said that if the signal was artificial, its strength suggested it would have to come from a civilization more advanced than our own.
Such a civilization would likely be Type II on the Kardashev scale, which is based basically on the energy that that civilization might be able to funnel for its own use.
At present, our own species is somewhere near Type I on the scale, whereby a civilization is able to harness all the energy available to it on its own planet, including solar, wind, earthquakes, and other fuels.
A Type II civilization would be able to harness the entirety of the energy emitted by its star, billions of billions of watts.
Doing so would require a colossal undertaking, likely the construction of some kind of superstructure, such as a giant sphere or swarm of super-advanced solar panels that could catch and store all radiation put out by the sun.
Scientists believe superstructures are probably our best chance of detecting alien life unless they are actively trying to communicate with us.
A new WOW! Signal?
If it does prove to be transient and unexplained, HD 164595 could become another “Wow! signal,” frustratingly tantalizing and mysterious in equal measures.
What’s happening at HD 164595?
But it’s hard to understand why anyone would want to target our solar system with a strong signal. This star system is so far away they won’t have yet picked up on any TV or radar that would tell them that we’re here.
METI International will be observing the star from the Boquete Optical SETI Observatory in Panama. The SETI Institute is also examining HD 164595, using the Allen Telescope Array in California.
So far, the team has not found any signals to match those originally detected by the Russian telescope.
So is it aliens?
Probably not. The greatest limitation of the May 2015 signal is that it hasn’t been replicated.
Before we can give any credence to a signal as coming from extraterrestrials, we need to see it repeatedly to make sure it wasn’t just a transient phenomenon. It deserves at least a few hours of observing time by SETI researchers at other locations to make sure we don’t miss an opportunity to make first contact, however remote.
Of course, it’s possible the signal could be from an extraterrestrial civilization, but without confirmation, we can only say that it’s ‘interesting’.