Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wednesday Weird: The Wow! Signal

It's been forever since I've last done a Wednesday Weird about a strange transmission (over 2 years in fact) so today seems like a good day to talk about the Wow! signal.

This was a radio signal that was picked up at The Big Ear radio telescope. Which means that yes, it came from space.

Some science:

Big Ear used numbers, from 0to 10, and then the alphabet to document how far above background noise any signals went. The Wow! Signal was "6EQUJ5," meaning it began at a scale of six, crept to E, jumped to Q and then U before fading gradually.

This took 37 seconds, and the signal came from a seemingly empty spot in space. And when I say empty, I mean, it came from a non-terrestrial and non-solar system source. It was a signal fired to Earth from one of the emptiest places in space (and, I mean, SPACE), and it somehow reached us.

It's called the Wow! signal because the man who found it was so shocked that he circled it and wrote "Wow!" on the side,



Some people believe it's an interstellar scintillation of a weaker continuous signal. A continuous signal is not uncommon, and the Wow! signal might have been a weak, continuous signal that gained strength for a short time.

The hole in that theory, though, is that it's a strange signal from space that follows a very specific system, turning off, and turning on. Which is not normal.

The Wow! also contained a trademark of artificially produced interstellar broadcasts. But how could they broadcast it from a point in space where there are no planets or even solar systems? A spaceship would work, though . . .

The guy who found the signal didn't believe it came from extra-terrestrial life; he thought it was something from Earth reflected off of space debris. But that theory has problems, too.

If it was from Earth, the reflector would have to have been in all sorts of unrealistic requirements for the nature of the signal.

In this case the simplest explanation, for a change, is actually that there was some sort of craft beaming signals towards earth.

Thoughts or theories?

7 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

If it's from an alien craft and it starts counting down, we should be become very worried...

Leandra Wallace said...

Just that my dad would be all over this. =) He's very into intelligent life forms besides our own. It is super interesting though!

Rena said...

Hmm, I'm skeptical.

It's typical of OUR broadcast signals? that's highly suspicious right there. The other part of this is that we have tens to hundreds of spacecraft up all the time. Because of the nature of the big ears, we cannot tell how far away something is, so this really could be a case of sound reflected off space junk. Or a dead cable TV satellite spinning out there with a really loud signal but otherwise "dead" for the sake of broadcast. We don't track all of those.

Still very interesting.

mshatch said...

Interesting. I wonder if anyone will ever find out what it was.

Elena Solodow said...

I love reading about these random little tidbits of phenomena. They happen more often than we realise, I think! Interesting stuff :)

Madilyn Quinn said...

Huh! Something to look into, this is interesting!

Stephanie Faris said...

My husband is fascinated by this stuff. It's surprising how often throughout history unexplained phenomena has happened.

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