How do you work out if a signal from space is a message from aliens?
Astronomers working on the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico have detected a strange radio signal, seen in pointing their telescopes at nearby star Ross 128.
Do not worry about the possibility of an extraterrestrial civilization that communicates with us again. “If you are wondering, the recurring assumption of foreigners is at the bottom of many other better explanations,” said Abel Mendez, the scientist who runs the campaign.
Of course, this does not prevent others from speculating that the signal may be correct.
And the question arises, how do you determine if a strange signal in space is really an extraterrestrial message? The simple answer is that you should exclude any first primer and only then, do you think you are foreigners. In Sherlock Holmes’s words:
“When the impossible has been eliminated, what remains, though unlikely, must be the truth.” But the elimination of all other possibilities is not exactly simple.
When radiopulsars were detected for the first time in 1967, the “little green men” were considered at least as a possibility – before they act quickly neutron stars become. The discovery has opened up a new field of astrophysics, so it can hardly be considered a disappointment.
The Arecibo radio telescope in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. H. Schweiker / WIYN and NOAO / AURA / NSF.
There have been other cases. In 1977, astronomers have detected a blast of radio nicknamed “WOW signal” – and discussed its origin in decades.
Only recently, it was suggested that there could be a natural explanation: emission of a comet that was on the right side of the sky.
However, other astronomers have questioned the idea of the kite, so they can not be considered resolved yet.
Another mysterious sign is that the tabby star shows strange quasi-periodic punctures in its brightness.
Could this prove the orbit of mega foreign structures, or is it just a cloud of natural debris surrounding the star? Once again, the jury is still out of it, but of course they have not ruled out all the natural possibilities.
Ross saw signal 128, which is 11 light years from Earth, consisted of quasi-periodic radio pulses across a wide range of frequencies. The observations were carried out on May 12 in the range 4-5 GHz and lasted about ten minutes.
A periodic signal naturally attracts attention to itself and could indicate an artificial origin. However, some natural processes can also lead to periodic signals. The pulses could be due to something like solar flares coming from the red dwarf star (a small and relatively cool star).
Such stars are indeed prone to this type of activity, but researchers say radio pulses are different from those already seen in other similar stars.
It is perhaps more likely that the signals are similar close to home – the result of interference from an artificial satellite in high-altitude terrestrial orbit passing through the field of view of the telescope during observations.
However, such a satellite signal has not been seen before either. The Arecibo team is planning further observations to verify these possibilities.