The Allen Telescope Array in California. Credit: SETI Institute

That recently detected 'alien signal' is actually just a terrestrial disturbance

The call came from inside the house.

JOSH HRALA
31 AUG 2016
 

Researchers working with the Ratan-600 radio telescope in Russia have confirmed that the reported 'strange signal' that's been making headlines lately is nothing more than a terrestrial disturbance caused by a Soviet satellite.

The signal was originally detected back in May 2015, and was thought to be coming from the star HD 164595. The fact that it was so unusually strong hinted at the fact that something odd was going on here. But the only strange thing here is that the signal wasn't coming from space at all - it was coming from Earth.

 

"We indeed, discovered an unusual signal. However, an additional check showed that it was emanating from a Soviet military satellite, which had not been entered into any of the catalogues of celestial bodies," team member Alexander Ipatov, from the Russian Academy of Sciences, told the Russian news agency TASS.

In case you missed it, a few days ago, word of an intriguing signal started to make headlines across the world after popular astronomy writer Paul Gilster wrote about it on his blog Centauri Dreams.

The signal, which was supposedly detected last year by the Ratan-600 telescope in Russia, was extremely strong, with a 2.7 centimetre (1.06-inch) wavelength with an 11 GHz frequency, which is comparable to a digital TV signal.

The find was made all the more interesting by the fact that HD 164595 - the star the signal appeared to be coming from - is a lot like our Sun.

HD 164595 is only 1 percent lighter than the Sun, 100 million years younger, has a similar temperature, and is even composed of the same elements.

All of this added up to a whole lot of hype. So much so, that researchers from the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) observed the area, which lies in the constellation Hercules some 94 light-years away, using the Allen Telescope Array, but they didn’t find anything interesting.

 

Now the researchers who originally found the signal have set the record straight by announcing that it was nothing more than a terrestrial disturbance.

"Last and this year, the telescope’s work has focused on searching for Sun-like stars," Ratan-600 researcher Yulia Sotnikova told TASS.

"There have been no scientific results within the framework of this research so far. Some time ago, in the spring of this year, an unusual signal was received but its analysis showed that it was most likely a terrestrial disturbance."

This means that the signal was coming from a Soviet satellite and somehow got mixed up in their findings, which would explain its unusual strength.

Right now, the team says they're going to be preparing an official statement that will be sent out shortly.

While the news is definitely a bummer for those of us who dream of finding intelligent life somewhere in the Universe, it’s pretty cool to see how the scientific community pulls together almost overnight when an intriguing signal is picked up.

Hopefully, with so many astronomical organisations working together around the world, if there are signals from intelligent life beaming out across the galaxy or beyond, we'll be equipped to find them. But today is not that day.

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