Old but not forgotten, the Wow! Signal, an alien transmission
On August 15 th, 1977, astronomer Jerry Ehman working on the SETI project in Ohio, detected for the first and last time (at least officially) a 72 second signal coming from outer space. That was a monumental time in history and the event got the attention of everyone.
SETI (Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence) was established by the late 1970 at the Ames Research Center of NASA and the NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. The goal was to examine stars trying to detect intelligent signals from space. However it was 2 decades later that NASA stopped being involved in the project.
However, on August 15 th 1977, the magical moment happened. The ‘Big Ear’ radio telescope of the Ohio State University Radio Observatory spotted an intelligent signal coming from the direction of the constellation of Sagittarius and its duration was seventy two seconds at the frequency of 1420.4056 MHz. The signal was named the ‘Wow! Signal’ because of the note that Jerry Ehman took when he noticed the numbers identifying the signal on the computer printout.
The signal appeared in a very narrow band of frequencies (less than 10kHz) and the analysis performed on the signal proved that it originated outside our solar system. The signal at its strongest point was more than 30 times stronger than background noise. The signal strength remained constant within an observing window of 10 seconds. Unfortunately the signal was observed only once and never since then, even if later on the focus of SETI for many months was the constellation of Sagittarius.
What is interesting is that the frequency of 1420.4056 MHz, is the frequency of the neutral hydrogen line and as Ehman suggested, it would make sense for an alien civilization to try to communicate at that frequency, since hydrogen is abundant in the universe.
Could all those events be random, man made or just reflections from objects in space as a few sceptics suggested? The answer is ‘No’ with a 99% probability. Unfortunately due to the lack of a repeated signal or another similar signal since then we cannot identify the purpose of the signal or the exact location of it. If something like this would happen today we would have much more information and much more data to identify not only the source but possibly even a message hidden in the signal.
By John Black