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Has the 40-year Old Mystery of the 'Wow!' Signal Been Solved? (newatlas.com) 85

"Astronomers have confirmed that the Wow! signal, thought to be the most promising detection by SETI of alien life, was actually caused by a comet," writes schwit1. New Atlas reports: Last year, a group of researchers from the Center of Planetary Science proposed a new hypothesis that argued a comet might be the culprit. The frequency could be caused by the hydrogen cloud they carry, and the fact that they move accounts for why it seemingly disappeared. Two comets, named 266/P Christensen and P/2008 Y2 (Gibbs), happened to be transiting through that region of space when the Wow! signal was detected, but they weren't discovered until after 2006. To test the hypothesis, the team made 200 radio spectrum observations between November 2016 and February 2017. Sure enough, 266/P Christensen was found to emit radio waves at a frequency of 1,420 MHz, and to double check, the researchers moved their radio telescope by one degree. As expected, the signal vanished, and only returned when the telescope was trained back on the comet.

Has the 40-year Old Mystery of the 'Wow!' Signal Been Solved?

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    So it's a moving object that is emitting a signal at 1420 MHz. I'm not sure how that changes anything.

    • Re: Solved? (Score:5, Funny)

      by KGIII ( 973947 ) <uninvolved@outlook.com> on Saturday June 10, 2017 @08:50PM (#54594043) Journal

      At this point. I have heard all sots of excuses for it. It has never been repeated. The odds of it being from an intelligent source, are REALLY fucking low. If they were gonna send us something, they'd probably send something with more bits, unless they figured we could (and would) decode it from that. Dunno but I bet any aliens sending messages aren't stupid. They're gonna make it easy to decode. Call it a hunch...

      Yeah, just a hunch... I could be wrong and an advanced alien species could be sending messages but making them difficult to decrypt because they're just jerks like that. Damned aliens.

      • Maybe not difficult to decrypt but simply sending it in a way we cannot detect. Imagine you're sending using radio equipment and are trying to communicate with a society with a medieval technology standard. What kind of information will they get from you?

        • Pointless comment. We got the fucking signal, nothing like sending a radio signal to Napoleon Bonaparte.
          • The opposite is quite possible though.

            I was trying to eat a pigeon in a french restaurant that was tough as nail, then I noticed something on its leg.

            It was a little piece of paper which I unrolled.

            On it is said:
            We attack at dawn. Napoleon.
          • by Anonymous Coward
            I think you missed the point. Granted it's just a plot device to keep stories moving but a lot of sci-fi programs have their cast communicating with each other using faster-than-light technologies so as to support near real time communications (e.g.: subspace in Star Trek). It's at least possible that more advanced species, especially if they're space-faring, would be communicating with something more advanced than radio signals. e.g.: maybe quantum entanglement for point-to-point... who knows what for broa
          • What we could have observed is the equivalent of a transformer from the radio equipment blowing up and us Napoleonians thinking it's some kind of light signal.

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          So they're assuming we're idiots?

          Hmm.... That actually has potential.

          • No, quite the opposite. They might consider us way more advanced than we are.

            Take our Acecibo message [wikipedia.org]. To decipher that message, you need to have a civilization with advanced radio equipment to detect it in the first place, with the capability to store it so it isn't just received and potentially missed, the knowledge of statistics to understand that this is actually not a natural phenomenon but a coded message, enough mathematical understanding to decipher it...

            And all that also pretty much assumes that th

        • by mvdwege ( 243851 )

          Maybe not difficult to decrypt but simply sending it in a way we cannot detect.

          But how is this essentially any different than a belief in the existence of God or Angels? Believers have also come up with various explanations why we can't detect such things, but in the end SETI runs into the same issues.

          • I think the point is that we may not have developed the technology. The first radio telescope wasn't developed until the 1930s, more than 300 years after the first recorded use of a telescope for astronomical purposes. The first gravitational telescope discovery came barely more than a year ago.

            I'm not holding my breath for the imminent discovery of intelligent alien life, but I also realize that how we see the universe will change over the next four hundred years probably at least as much as it's changed o

      • The odds of it being from an intelligent source, are REALLY fucking low.

        Just curious, but how did you determine the odds of it being from an intelligent source?

        And is "REALLY fucking low" more or less than 0.000000001? And in either case, how were the odds determined?

        If they were gonna send us something, they'd probably send something with more bits

        I'm assuming you have evidence that what we got wasn't the edge of a message that was pointed this way for a comparatively short time by blind chance while

        • What about a signal from God himself? Or maybe this signal was caused by Xenu when he escaped from his prison! Or maybe it was coming from the space station that Hitler built when he escaped from his bunker!

          Imagination is great, but there's a moment when we must be rational and accept the reasonable explanation. And no, believing this was a signal from an "intelligent source" is not reasonable at all. One thing is for sure, rejecting this reasonable explanation because it goes against our desire and dreams

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          Umm.., I admit it's simple math and extrapolation, but the odds of that signal being sent by a sentient being are pretty low. Are you gonna argue that the odds of it being sent by a sentient being are greater than it being sent by a natural source or improper instrumentation? I could be wrong, but I think we're all kinda in agreement about the source of noise, as to the most probably reasons. *shrugs* You can be right, however. I'm not scared.

        • Base rate for humans running around with their hair on fire over some anomaly that later proved to be something entirely different: ludicrous speed.

          Base rate for humans inventing various super-beings and spirits and pseudo-species out of whole cloth: surely nothing to sneeze at.

          Number of star systems beaming fake intergalactic news at ever higher levels of transmission power until crystal diodes are exploding everywhere: zero (give or take).

          Furtive space aliens on a "two hour cruise" who chanced into near-e

      • Maybe we should also mandate to the aliens that encryption is not allowed on an open transmission media like the Intelligence community wants.

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          Ha! I agree!

          We should mandate that AND that they have to wear a jersey that supports their favorite professional sports team. It's okay, even if it's bowling. They gotta wear that shit, or we're gonna kick them out of the galaxy.

      • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

        The odds of it being from an intelligent source, are REALLY fucking low. If they were gonna send us something, they'd probably send something with more bits, unless they figured we could (and would) decode it from that. Dunno but I bet any aliens sending messages aren't stupid. They're gonna make it easy to decode. Call it a hunch...

        I watched a lecture by Linda Howe, a journalist who started investigating cattle mutilations, on binary messages from, crop circles and abductees [youtube.com]. Its a 2 hour lecture with much of it spent building the necessary context about several binary messages delivering a warning that at least one alien species is extremely hostile to humanity and we should not be transmitting *anything*. Ironically, one of the things she shows was a crop circle with a binary code in it reported here on slashdot years ago. [slashdot.org]

        As for

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          Huh...

          I want to be mean. However, I don't have it in me. Well, I do - but I'm not 100% sure you're wrong. I am 100% sure that you're wrong, if your're looking at animal mutilation as a source of data.

          First, I'm going to say this...

          I respect you for having the courage to put that out there. No, I am not kidding.

          Second, I like to pretend that I'm not, but I am kinda the exact definition of scientist. I smashed data together and predicted throughput for traffic. I'd later go on and model pedestrian traffic.

          I'd

          • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

            Are you sure you want to keep up that line of argument?

            What line of argument? I have no idea what is out there, I just thought you'd be interested in the video. You said If they were gonna send us something, they'd probably send something with more bits, unless they figured we could (and would) decode it from that. Dunno but I bet any aliens sending messages aren't stupid. It turns out there are several events meeting that criteria that you may not have been aware of.

            There is not enough time between the posts for you to have watched the video and it talks a

            • by KGIII ( 973947 )

              > Would you elaborate please because that is no different from someone saying the complete opposite and asking me to trust them.

              My bad - I neglected to mention that I'm familiar with Linda and the subject matter. I love to watch that stuff.

              Anyhow, what you have from her is conjecture, supposition, and willful ignorance. Well, I assume it's willful - it appears to be.

              In the case of livestock mutilations, the damage has perfectly normal reasons. There's predation, vultures, and insects. There's bloating wh

              • by MrKaos ( 858439 )
                Sorry about the late reply KGIII

                My bad - I neglected to mention that I'm familiar with Linda and the subject matter. I love to watch that stuff. Anyhow, what you have from her is conjecture, supposition, and willful ignorance. Well, I assume it's willful - it appears to be.

                This is the second of her videos I've watched. I decided long ago that the answer to if unidentified alien craft exist is essentially unknowable until I am standing in front of one.

                I've always thought it was more than likely a group o

        • by lgw ( 121541 )

          binary messages from, crop circles

          Well, given crop circles come from bored farmers (heck, most of them early in the craze came from the same guys, doing it full time), it wouldn't surprise me at all that they contained messages.

          • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

            I don't think it is that simple. Lots of them are created by humans. No doubt. Lots of them cannot possibly be created by humans alone. They are too precise and carry too much meaning.

            • by lgw ( 121541 )

              Too precise? What's "too precise" for humans? The available precision in corn stalks isn't very fine grained, and many crop circles were done by a group that had effectively made it their profession.

              Too much meaning? Whatever meaning humans are capable of deducing from them, humans are capable of encoding into them.

              • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

                Too precise? What's "too precise" for humans? The available precision in corn stalks isn't very fine grained, and many crop circles were done by a group that had effectively made it their profession.

                Sorry, I'm not an expert however I think they are beautiful, so maybe you're right and that are all just an art project. Perhaps a comparison of the characteristics of these things and see what emerges from that data, even if it is to establish they are all pranks.

                Too much meaning? Whatever meaning humans are capable of deducing from them, humans are capable of encoding into them.

                True that, however anyone sending us a message would want us to understand it too so I'm just trying to balance keeping an open mind and healthy skepticism.

      • an advanced alien species could be sending messages but making them difficult to decrypt because they're just jerks like that

        Aliens have lawyers too, and we haven't paid for the rights to those messages.

      • I think unlikely that we're alone in the universe. But even if we are, one day we'll create some
  • They should rename the comet after the first observers, even if it was in radio waves.
  • Maybe some poor bastard's been stuck on that comet for the last 40 years.
  • since the Aliens program them that way
  • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 ) on Saturday June 10, 2017 @07:21PM (#54593811)

    So we thought that aliens were just emitting radio signals and we now discover that they are actually sending us comets.
    Very, very impressive.

  • No, no it wasn't (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 10, 2017 @07:29PM (#54593837)

    http://naapo.org/WOWCometRebuttal.html

  • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Saturday June 10, 2017 @07:43PM (#54593873)

    Title: Has the mystery been solved?
    Summary: The mystery has been solved!
    Article: Researches have a hypothesis about the mystery.

    Slashdot desperately needs some editors to check submissions before they make the front page.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The premise that Aliens would send on a signal the same frequency as emitted by Hydrogen was intended to be used for scanning distant stars. The random blip was confused for WOW when the researcher didn't understand WHY they were looking for that frequency or didn't put 2 and 2 together that this is exactly what a comet would look like in Radio Frequency reporting.

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Saturday June 10, 2017 @11:01PM (#54594359)

    ... working on the "Meh" signal.

  • Nobody's asked the question yet, so I, Anonymous Coward will.

    What kind of natural phenomenon would cause a comet - an icy chunk of rock - emit radio waves at 1420MHz specifically and not at other frequencies?

    • by jafiwam ( 310805 )

      Nobody's asked the question yet, so I, Anonymous Coward will.

      What kind of natural phenomenon would cause a comet - an icy chunk of rock - emit radio waves at 1420MHz specifically and not at other frequencies?

      1420MHz is where they were looking, based on an assumption about what ET would do to transmit. Multiply it by Pi or 2xPi and there is reasonably empty space on the spectrum. It's also meaningful because you'd be looking at that frequency to map stuff in the universe. So, if you want to be seen, you use it, or a non-culturally-centric meaningful frequency.

      It is the "electron flip" frequency of hydrogen. So it only means there were hydrogen atoms or hydrogen gas there.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen [wikipedia.org]

  • Betteridge says no.

  • so the sounds come from a rock,

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