Russia’s RATAN-600 radio telescope, which detected the signals in May 2015. Photo: Wikimedia Commons A graph showing the signal spike, which came from the direction of star HD 164595. Photo: Bursov et al via
Nanjing Night Net

“Strong signals”, potentially linked to alien life, have been picked up by a radio telescope operating in a remote corner of Russia.

The signal spikes have been linked to a 6.3-billion-year-old star, known as HD164595, found in the Hercules constellation about 95 light years from Earth. The star is known to have at least one planet and possibly more.

The signals were picked up by the Russian radio telescope Ratan-600 near Zelenchukskaya in May last year.

But before you get too excited about meeting the new neighbours, consider this.

While there is a slim chance the signals detected could be from an extraterrestrial source, it is more likely that the radio signals were the result of earthly interference.

“It looks to me like a storm in a teacup at the moment, it could be absolutely anything,” said CSIRO astrophysicist Lisa Harvey-Smith.

Dr Harvey-Smith, the project scientist on the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder project, said interference can include “radio noise” from aeroplanes and satellites or even if a star or galaxy varies its brightness.

“It’s very common that we see things like this where they go brighter than fainter,” Dr Harvey-Smith said.

However the revelation is not being dismissed and has been referred to the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute (SETI) in Mountain View, California, for investigation.

Stars and galaxies emit light at certain radio frequencies and radio telescopes monitor a wide band. SETI concentrates on things occurring outside these radio frequencies because that’s where the unusual activity occurs.

“It’s probably not anything but I’m glad that SETI is paying attention and will take a look at it,” said ANU astrophysicist Dr Brad Tucker.

Scientists need to establish exactly where on the radio spectrum the noise emanated from. If it came from a broad chunk then it could originate from another stellar source.

However if the signal’s origin can be pinpointed to a narrow band, then things get interesting as there is a slim chance it could come from intelligent life.

Operational since 1974, the Russian radio telescope Ratan-600’s main task is to monitor solar activity. The discovery was made in May 2015 but it only came to light on the weekend after Italian Claudio Maccone from Turin University attended a presentation outlining the discovery and shared the information with Centauri Dreams science writer Paul Gilster.  

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.


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