Did ET Finally Call Us?

An Australian radio telescope picked up unusual signals back in 2019 and thinks they originated from Proxima Centauri, a scant 4.3 light years from our blue marble. Researchers caution that it almost certainly is a signal of human or natural origin and that more analysis will probably show it didn’t come from Proxima Centauri. But they can’t yet explain it.

The research is from the Breakthrough Listen project, a decade-long SETI project. The 980 MHz BLC-1 signal, as it’s called, meets the tests that identify the signal as interesting. It has a narrow bandwidth, it drifts in frequency consistent with a signal moving away or towards the Earth, and it disappears when the radio telescope points elsewhere.

The project has been running since 2015 and this was the first signal their algorithms flagged as requiring further analysis. However, the researchers admit the algorithm is intentionally optimistic. After all, you’d rather have false positives to filter out than have any false negatives.

Unfortunately, since the initial set of detections, the team hasn’t found any more signals from the same part of the sky. Proxima Centauri is interesting because it is among our closest neighbors and it is known to have at least two planets, one of which we think could support life.

The 210 foot Parkes radio telescope — better known locally as “the dish” — that detected the signal dates back to 1961 and was the point of reception for the Apollo 11 moon landing. Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) operates the facility and the picture above is courtesy of CSIRO, CC-BY-3.0.

While you might not have room in your backyard for a 210-foot dish, you can build something more modest. We wonder if this signal will remain a mystery like the Wow signal?

73 thoughts on “Did ET Finally Call Us?

    1. For those lacking context: Hutton Orbital is an outpost in orbit of Eden, the single planet orbiting Proxima Centauri.

      Due to the mechanics of hyperspace travel and the proximity between Proxima Centauri and Alpha Centauri, you can only exit hyperspace at the latter… Meaning that if you want to reach Proxima Centauri, you have to travel the remaining 0.22 ly the hard way, taking a considerable amount of time even under Frame Shift…

      So it’s become customary for chuckleheads to haze new pilots by convincing them to fly to Hutton Orbital…because even in the 34th century, trolls are still trolls. 😏

      1. Pfft, who wants the ‘conda.. Its the ship that doesn’t know if its trying to be sexy or utilitarian, and just plain isn’t as much fun as basically any of the other options in its size/weight.. What you want is a free fleet carrier, so you can then pay excessive charges to keep it for the rest of time!

        Still I like to think you are correct, it would be really quite amusing. Though tricky to pull off.

    1. errr… did some math and your estimated speed is 33,037 mph… Thats half the orbital velocity for earth… Fastest manmade object tops out at 213,200 mph (Parker solar probe). So with our fastest probe, we could get there in 13,736 years (rounded down.)

      1. we could probably get this down to less then 3000 years with some serious ion engines and a lot of gravity assist from Jupiter and/or Saturn…problem is slowing down once we get there…

  1. So, like Carl Sagan someone there might have sent a signal, and then the Proxima’s politicians said “alright, enough with this science stuff mr. Scientist, your telescope is using too much power” and thats how we are expecting more signals that will not be sent, like someone out there expected more signals from us that never came

  2. Just a bunch of fools looking for ET. A better question is this. If you were an ET looking down on this planet and seeing all the silly crap we do, with our government and how greedy we are steeling from the poor, screwing people all the time, and the top channel on TV most people watch is the Simpsons would you make the effort to reach out to us to make contact?
    I wouldn’t, I would avoid our blue planet saying that race is doomed, they are just to stupid.

    1. ET would not be able to watch our TV channels. The signal is far too weak, even with analog. With modern digital modulation, it’s gotten much worse, because the spectrum is all spread out and the signal looks like noise.

  3. well, you know…this may not be so great if indeed it turns out this does originate from an advanced alien civilization. I just look at our world and our civilization….and the political and religious nut cases inhabiting this planet and how predatory we really are with everything. I been watching a Netflix series – “alien worlds” and it does appear that if life evolves on an exoplanet, it stands to reason that the same dynamics drive the evolution of life there, similar or maybe even exactly like our planet. Given that, not so sure we would want to be very open about what we know or don’t know. Their star is a small, low power output, red dwarf. Energy has to be the currency of trade, the more advanced a civilization becomes. Maybe I am being human paranoid here? Aplha Centauri A is larger and more lumious that our own star…….and a hech of alot closer than we would be. So maybe all would be OK?

  4. Jesus I’m fucking sick of these stupid headlines every single time there’s a new discovery in radio astronomy. Please, COULD WE PLEASE, allow our astronomers to make a discovery without writing some stupid headline about ET, or aliens at all?! Like, try it one time. Try to write a headline about this WITHOUT mentioning aliens. There’s no need for it! It’s amazing enough without that extra fluff!
    They discovered an exoplanet by using its own radio emissions! That’s incredible! Amazing news! Super exciting! Putting on a fake idiot hat and pretending to be excited about goddamn aliens is just… pathetic. Tired of it.

    1. It’s literally a SETI project that found this signal. Do you not know what SETI is, or do you expect the article to not mention who found the signal? Or would you simply rather not read about it at all, in which case, why are you here?

  5. Although it would slow it down maybe, to help eliminate spurious terrestrial signals, two radio telescopes should listen to the same target at the same time, placed far enough apart (couple thousand miles) microwaves wouldn’t be seen as WOW signals.

  6. Is their data cryptographically time stamped and checksummed by a third party or ideally in public and on the blockchain? If not you are all getting way ahead of yourselves because they can’t even prove it isn’t terrestrial based fraud or a hack/hoax against their servers. This is an issue with all scientific equipment that is digital and connected to a network, and there is no excuse for not doing things correctly to ensure the integrity of the data collected. There is enough knowhow amongst the readership of HAD to define a secure and reputable datasource, it isn’t rocket science, and we can do that too. :-)

    1. Only feasible way to get longer range is by using a narrow beam, but that dramatically lowers probability that the transmitter and receiver dish are exactly aligned at the precise moment of transmission.

    1. Bad timing. Our “Stelaphone” died earlier this month, rather spectacularly. The bill hadn’t been paid for some time, anyway. It was old, couldn’t even play “Snake” on it. They’ll have to wait ’til we get a new one before we can get back to them. Could be a while.

  7. Sorry guys, it’s just my interstellar cubesat. I will do a write up on hackaday.io once it arrives at Proxima.

    PS: The temperature drift of those LORA modules from AliExpress is awful!

      1. Or just Chuck Norris if the interstellar dust attenuated it enough they didn’t interpret it as a beam weapon attack, so don’t need to dump half the power into a dummy load.

  8. “Proxima Centauri is interesting because it is among our closest neighbors and it is known to have at least two planets, one of which we think could support life.”

    IIRC, (maybe it was here on HaD, maybe it was APOD) that Proxima Centauri has very strong UV radiation (or something) that would make life unlikely.

    1. The problem is we have an extremely myopic definition of life and the conditions needed to support it. Life could have evolved in such a way that it requires what we would consider extreme UV radiation.

      For instance, imagine that advanced, sentient lifeforms do exist in the Proxima system. For all we know two Proximans could be sitting around right now arguing that life can’t possibly exist on Earth because it’s too cold, the radiation levels are too low and there’s too much liquid water to support life.

  9. Somewhere in the posts here it’s stated that our TV and radio signals can’t be detected past 2 light years. I’m guessing a lot of that is because the signals actually aren’t directed in to space. So what kind of power expressly directed towards Proxima Centauri would assure detection by a civilization with our level of technology?

    Also: I’m guessing the EMP from a nuclear explosion is pretty detectable. In the case of an all out nuclear war, there would be a definite pattern to the timing of the strikes, etc. So maybe what we heard with WOW! and the signal reported here is actually the culmination of a disagreement within a civilized society?

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