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Was it dropped from ET?

No one believes this is an ET call, but radio astronomers admit that they have not yet explained a beam of radio waves apparently coming from the direction of Proxima Centauri Centauri.

“This is some kind of technical signal. The question is whether it is earth technology or technology elsewhere,” said Sofia Sheikh, a graduate student at Pennsylvania State University, who leads a team that studies signals and tries to decipher the source. She is part of Breakthrough Listen, a US$100 million research project funded by Russian billionaire investor Yuri Milner, which aims to detect external radio waves. The project has now stumbled upon the most attractive salary.

Proxima Centauri is a tempting prospect of “beyond”.

It is the closest known star to the sun, only 4.24 light years from the earth, and is part of a three-star system called Alpha Centauri. Proxima has at least two planets, one of which is a rocky world whose mass is only slightly greater than that of the earth. It occupies the so-called habitable area of ​​the star. The temperature of this area should be beneficial to the water on its surface (life matter). ).

The radio signal itself was discovered in the spring of 2019 and reported earlier in the Guardian. In many ways, it is something alien hunters dream of stuff. This is a narrowband signal with a frequency of 982.02 MHz recorded by the Parkes Observatory in Australia. Nature, whether it is exploding stars or geomagnetic storms, tends to broadcast in a wide frequency range.

Ms. Sheikh said: “The signal will only show up in our data when we look in the direction of Proxima Centauri, which is exciting.” “This is a threshold that no signal we have ever seen before, but There are many warnings.”

Practitioners in the field of hope (also known as SETI) looking for extraterrestrial intelligence say they have seen all this before.

Dan Werthimer, chief technician of the Berkeley SETI Research Center, wrote: “We have seen these types of signals before, and it has always been radio frequency interference,” and it is not part of Proxima Centauri’s research. e-mail.

His Berkeley colleague Andrew Siemion also agreed with this idea, and he is the lead researcher of Breakthrough Listening. He said: “Our experiment exists in a lot of interference signals.”

He added: “In the end, my intuition is that it will originate from human factors.” “But so far, we can’t fully explain it.”

Guys, so there is nothing to see here. Until there. Despite claims of biological signature gas on Venus and the Pentagon’s collection of stories about UFO sightings, the discovery of life, not to mention intelligence, will still have a psychological shock in the proportions of the universe and history.

False alarms have been part of SETI since the beginning. At the time, Frank Drake at Cornell had now retired from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He installed a radio in 1960. The telescope was aimed at a pair of telescopes in Greenbert, Washington. Stars, hope to hear the radio waves of aliens. What he found seemed to be a signal. Is it easy to find that we are not alone?

It turned out that this was a secret military experiment.

Sixty years later, we are still one person. SETI as a company has experienced economic and political wars. Even if technology has enhanced human capabilities, it has also allowed people to comb the planets, stars and the “magic” that may spread endlessly. Frequency” of almost unlimited needles in a haystack.

Mr. Milner and Stephen Hawking announced Breakthrough Listen to great fanfare in 2015, which triggered what Dr. Siemion called a revival.

He said: “This is the best time for SETI.”

The most recent excitement began on April 29, 2019, when breakthrough auditory scientists turned the Parkes radio telescope on Proxima Centauri to the star to monitor its violent flares. This is a small star called a red dwarf. These stars are susceptible to such explosions, which may separate the atmosphere from the planet and make it uninhabitable.

They recorded a total of 26 hours of data. However, the Parkes radio telescope is equipped with a new receiver that can resolve the narrowband signals that SETI researchers seek. Therefore, in the fall of 2020, the team decided to search for these signals in the data. This work fell into the hands of Shane Smith, an undergraduate at Hillsdale College in Michigan and an intern at Breakthrough.

On April 29, in a series of 30-minute windows, the telescope was pointed in the direction of Proxima Centauri and the team surprised the team five times. It hasn’t appeared since. This is a pure unmodulated tone, which means that it does not seem to have any information other than the fact that it exists.

The signal also shows a tendency to drift slightly in frequency within 30-minute intervals, which indicates that no matter where the signal comes from, it is not on the surface of the earth, but is often associated with rotating or orbiting objects.

However, the drift does not match the motion of any known planet in Proxima Centauri. In fact, if the signal is real, it may come from somewhere outside of the Alpha Centauri system. who knows?

Then the signal disappeared, prompting people to appear on the printout of the Big Ear Radio Telescope operated by Ohio State University in 1977 with the famous “Wow! Signal”. The now retired astronomer Jerry Ehman wrote: “Wow!” After that, he saw it on the side of the printout. The signal never appeared again, and there was no satisfactory explanation, and some people still wondered if it was a call missed by Out Out.

When Dr. Siemion said of the Proxima signal, “There are some exclamation points, but’Wow’ is not one of them.”

When asked what they were, he smiled.

He said: “At first, people were confused about this, but it was resolved quickly.”

He said that since the end of October this year, after 24 to 48 hours, the mood has changed from curiosity and curiosity to “very serious scientific detective work.”

Ms. Sheikh is expected to receive a doctorate this summer, and she is currently leading detective work. She intends to earn a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, intending to study particle physics, but finds herself involved in astronomy instead. When looking for a new undergraduate research project, she first heard about the Breakd Listen project and SETD on Reddit.

When she talked about the presumptive signal, she said: “At first I would be very skeptical, but I would still be skeptical.” But she added that it was “the most interesting signal sent by the breakthrough listening program.”

The team hopes to release its results in early 2021.

Dr. Watsim said that the Parkes telescope used to pass communications to Apollo astronauts, but it was notorious for false alarms. He said that in a recent example, astronomers thought they had discovered a new astrophysics phenomenon.

He said: “Until someone noticed that the signal only appeared at lunchtime, it was really exciting.” They came from the microwave.

For many years, SETI astronomers have been proud of their ability to catch up with suspicious sources and eliminate them before they leak to the public.

This time, the “Guardian” reported their work. “The public wants to know, we know this,” Dr. Siemion said. But, as he and Ms. Sheikh emphasized, they are not yet finished.

Ms. Sheikh said: “Frankly, we still need to do a lot of analysis to be sure that this matter will not cause interference.”

She explained that part of the problem was that the original observation was not completed according to the standard SETI protocol. Usually, a radio telescope will point at a star or other target for five minutes, and then “nod” slightly at it for five minutes to see if the signal continues.

However, in the Proxima observation, the telescope was pointed for 30 minutes and then moved in the sky for about 30 minutes (about 30 degrees) to reach the quasar that astronomers used to calibrate the brightness of the star’s flares. Such a large swing may move the telescope away from any sources of radio interference.

Ms. Sheikh said that if all other methods fail, they will try to reproduce the results by replicating the exact motion of the Parkes telescope again on April 29, 2021.

“Because,” she said, “if it’s actually from Proxima, then they might want to send greetings or similar messages once a year.” She continued: “However, there are some similar annual events in the visitor center, or similar Incidents, which can cause environmental impacts at other times of the year.”

Proxima signals may be destined to be passed on to legendary figures, such as Ohio Wow! Send a signal, but in SETI, there will always be another day, another star.

Ms. Sheikh said it was interesting, even if the Proxima signal was eventually interfered.

“Regardless of the result, this is very exciting.”

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