The source of the mysterious ‘Wow!’ space signal which has baffled astronomers for decades might finally have been found.
A new study suggests that the signal could have been caused by a comet orbiting in the inner solar system.
The Wow! Signal
On the 15th of August 1977, scientists working with ‘The Big Ear Telescope’ at Ohio State University recorded a 72-second transmission originating nearly 200 light years away from Earth, near NAAPO constellation of Sagittarius. The computer recorded the varying intensity of the electromagnetic signal as it hit the receivers, which was represented in a 6 digit code: ‘6EQUJ5’.
The unexplained signal was so unique and looked so similar to how previous scientists predicted an extraterrestrial message would look like, that astronomer Jerry R Ehman circled the 6EQUJ5 code and wrote ‘WOW’ next to it.
Researchers have considered a wide range of possibilities on the origin of the sound, including satellite transmissions, aircraft signals, space debris reflecting ground based radio transmissions and terrestrial TV and radio signals. However none of these theories fit and to today the signal has never again been heard and its source remains unidentified.
Astronomer Antonio Paris has been studying the Wow! signal for a long time. In 2016, he released a paper suggesting that the signal could have been caused by a comet orbiting in the inner solar system.
Specifically, the 2016 paper identified two comets, 266P/Christensen and P/2008 Y2 (Gibbs), that were both in the area where the Wow! signal was detected. Both of these comets have large hydrogen clouds surrounding them that could produce the kind of signal detected in 1977. Paris spent about four months in late 2016 and early 2017 with a telescope pointed at comet 266P, and found strong signals of the same type as the Wow! signal. Listen to the sound of hydrogen:
Well, to me it’s not the same sound at all and the mystery continues!
In 2014, a new WOW signal was discovered in Space.