The Wow Signal – Actual Proof Of Alien Life?

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The Wow Signal is a 72-second radio burst that was recorded in 1977 that has defied explanation for 40 years, leading many to believe it might be proof of intelligent life.

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SciShow

Fraser Cain

Graph: By Maxrossomachin – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index…

https://www.livescience.com/59442-ast…

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TRANSCRIPT:

SETI, or the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, has access to telescopes all around the world, constantly scanning the sky for signals of alien communication.

Processing all of this information is a gargantuan task that would require a massive supercomputer that SETI can’t quite afford. So they came up with a brilliant idea.

It’s called SETI at home. It’s a program you can install on your computer that processes tiny parts of that data in the background.

Spreading that data across thousands of computers around the world, they’re able to crank through mountains of information, without the mountainous cost of a supercomputer.

But back in the 70’s none of that existed. Signals from space had to be printed out and processed by hand.

Which is exactly what astronomer Jerry Ehman was doing on August 18th, 1977. He was going over reams of printouts when he found a massive spike in a certain frequency of radio wave.

It was a spike 30 times higher than the background noise, and it was so noteworthy, he literally wrote “Wow” on the page.

It has since become known as the wow signal, and it’s still confusing scientists 40 years later.

The Big Ear went into operation in 1963 and was initially put to use on the Ohio Sky Survey, which catalogued nearly 20,000 sources of radio waves between 1965 and 1971.

Since it was on the ground, the telescope basically used the rotation of the Earth to scan across the sky.

When it measured a radio signal, they could infer by the time of day what direction the telescope was pointing and match that with visual sky surveys to figure out what star or galaxy it came from.

In 1956 on the grounds of Ohio Wesleyan University, construction crews broke ground on a massive telescope the size of three football fields to monitor the sky for radio signals from deep space.

It was officially known as the Ohio State University Radio Observatory, because it was actually run by Ohio State, but it was more well known by its nickname. The Big Ear.

The Big Ear went into operation in 1963 and was initially put to use on the Ohio Sky Survey, which catalogued nearly 20,000 sources of radio waves between 1965 and 1971.

Since it was on the ground, the telescope basically used the rotation of the Earth to scan across the sky.

When it measured a radio signal, they could infer by the time of day what direction the telescope was pointing and match that with visual sky surveys to figure out what star or galaxy it came from.

So a popular misconception with the wow signal is that 6EQUJ5 is some kind of alien code that we received but it’s actually just a measure of signal strength.

Ehrman and others immediately started pointing telescopes at the spot where the signal originated, which is in the constellation Sagittarius, but nothing has ever shown up.

So, it’s not a star or galaxy or pulsar or black hole because we’d pick up more signals from that location. As far as we know, and we’ve looked there a lot at this point, there’s nothing there.

At least, no cosmic body that would normally produce a radio stream like that.

But the mystery actually gets deeper. Because the frequency that this signal was found on was 1420 MHz. And if you were paying attention in last week’s video about the Voyager missions, 1420 mHz is the frequency that hydrogen atoms expel photons during hyperfine transitions.

(also known as 21-centimeter line or hydrogen line)

This same frequency was used by Carl Sagan and Frank Drake when creating the Pioneer and Voyager plaques as a way to communicate with an alien species should they ever come across the spacecraft.