Is a se­cret ALIEN MES­SAGE hid­ing in the Wow! sig­nal?

World of Knowledge (Australia) - - History -

All day, as­tronomer Jerry Eh­man has been us­ing Ohio State Uni­ver­sity’s Big Ear ra­dio te­le­scope to sweep the sky for pos­si­ble sig­nals from other civil­i­sa­tions. So far, he’s heard noth­ing more than the hum of space, un­til sud­denly, at 22.16, he re­ceives a blast of ra­dio waves and the printer whirrs into life. A se­ries of let­ters and num­bers ap­pears – a strange fre­quency read­ing ‘6EQUJ5’. The sig­nal has come from deep space. Eh­man cir­cles it with a pen and writes ‘Wow!’

Nearly 40 years have passed since that night – but the so-called Wow! sig­nal re­mains a mys­tery. The one cer­tainty: it trav­elled from some­where near the con­stel­la­tion Sagittarius – 200 light years away. “The sig­nal never reap­peared,” says physi­cist Har­ald Lesch. For that rea­son, Eh­man has ex­pressed doubts that the sig­nal orig­i­nated from an in­tel­li­gent ex­trater­res­trial source: “We should have seen it again when we looked for it 50 times. That sug­gests it was an Earth­sourced sig­nal that sim­ply got re­flected off some space de­bris.”

But other sci­en­tists be­lieve that the sig­nal fre­quency hints at some­thing truly out of this world. It was mea­sured at 1420.4556 MHZ – close to what’s known as the hy­dro­gen line, the elec­tro­mag­netic ra­di­a­tion spec­tral line that is cre­ated by a change in the en­ergy state of neu­tral hy­dro­gen atoms. As hy­dro­gen is the most abun­dant el­e­ment in space, ex­trater­res­trial be­ings might use that fre­quency to trans­mit a sig­nal.

There’s just one thing: if the sen­der re­ally was an in­tel­li­gent be­ing, they’ll have to wait a while for an an­swer: the in­ter­stel­lar ra­dio mes­sage took 122 years to reach Earth.

VOICE FROM THE DEEP The uni­verse is never silent. But the Wow! sig­nal was 30 times louder than the nor­mal level of noise found in space.

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