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The Wow! Signal

The Wow! Signal is considered by scientists to be the strongest candidate for an alien signal. Named after the handwritten note astronomer Jerry R. Ehman left when he first saw the signal, its origins have yet to be determined. Nevertheless, it is one of SETI’s (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) proudest moments.

On August 15, 1977, Jerry Ehman was volunteering at SETI, analyzing data. As he read along the signals and spotted one reading “6EQUJ5,” he circled the signal and wrote “Wow!” hence the signal’s name. His colleagues were astounded by the signal, and it was determined that there was a possibility of it being an alien signal.

The claim that extraterrestrial life sent the signal has been challenged multiple times. A common argument is that there was no modulation and therefore it could not have been sent via radio waves. In reality, if the signal was shorter than 10 seconds or longer than 72 seconds (as the signal was), then the Big Ear (the telescope that picked up the signal) would not have detected modulation. Thus, it is still possible that modulation was present.

Even Ehman acknowledges that it is very likely that it is not an alien signal. He once stated that he believes that it was a signal from Earth that bounced off some space debris. This claim has been deemed as highly unlikely, however. It has also been hypothesized that that the signal was generated by a passing comet. This hypothesis is very controversial. Alan Fitzsimmons, an astronomer, claims that it couldn’t have been a comet due to the fact that 1420 MHZ emission has never before been detected coming from a comet.

Despite its mystery, the Wow! Signal remains a notable point in the history of alien research. Maybe someday the world will know just what this signal hides.

By: Brig Larson

Photo Credits: https://www.mentalfloss.com/

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