August 15, 1977: the night before Elvis Presley died, at 11:16 p.m. an Ohio radio telescope called the Big Ear recorded a single pulse of radiation that seemed to come from somewhere in the constellation of Sagittarius at the 1420 MHz hydrogen line, the vibration frequency of hydrogen, the most common molecule in the universe -exactly the signal ET-hunters had been instructed to look out for. The signal was so strong that it pushed the Big Ear's recording device off the chart.
Ohio State University researchers wondered if it was man's first contact with extraterrestrial intelligence. They trained the massive scope on that part of the sky for the next month, and have returned periodically since, with no repeat of the signal
And although many point to it as a possible extraterrestrial intelligence sighting, Ehman, now 54, says told the Cleveland Pain Dealer "We should have seen it again when we looked for it 50 times. Something suggests it was an Earth-bound signal that simply got reflected off a piece of space debris."
"Even if it were intelligent beings sending a signal, they'd do it far more than once," Ehman, now 54, says. "We should have seen it again when we looked for it 50 times. Something suggests it was an Earth-bound signal that simply got reflected off a piece of space debris."
"If those civilizations are out there – and we don't know that they are – those that inhabit star systems that lie close to the plane of the Earth's orbit around the sun will be the most motivated to send communications signals toward Earth, because those civilizations will surely have detected our annual transit across the face of the sun, telling them that Earth lies in a habitable zone, where liquid water is stable," says Richard Conn Henry, of Johns Hopkins University. "Through spectroscopic analysis of our atmosphere, they will know that Earth likely bears life. Knowing where to look tremendously reduces the amount of radio telescope time we will need to conduct the search.”
Henry and colleagues think that we limit our search for extra-terrestrial intelligence to the ecliptic plane in which our solar system's planets orbit. This ecliptic band comprises only about 3 percent of the sky, which could make it easier for scientists to effectively narrow their search for intelligent ET.
The logic behind it postulates that if there is another, perhaps more advanced alien civilization in our galaxy out there; they may be trying to contact us, as well. If this is the case, Henry says a search focused on the ecliptic "should lead rapidly to the detection of other civilizations".
Exoplanets in the ecliptic should be able to see Earth passing in front of the Sun. These transits are what Earth astronomers rely on to identify a variety of information about the transiting planets, such as radius, density and composition. Transits also reveal the secret’s of a planet's atmosphere, therefore any potential alien astronomers studying the Earth's spectrum would theoretically find the indicators of life in our atmospheric oxygen, letting them know—just as we long to know—that they are not alone.
Henry, along with his colleagues, plan to search the ecliptic for these advanced alien civilizations with the Allen Telescope Array, a set of dozens of antennae in Hat Creek, California, US.
According to Greg Laughlin, an astronomer and extrasolar planet hunter at the University of California, Santa Cruz, if there is a stargazing civilization trying to make contact with us within 50 light years, its inhabitants would see the Earth as a bluish dot. All they would need is an 8-metre space-based telescope with a good coronagraph along with a set of space-based infrared telescopes, which would enable them to detect ozone and water vapor in our atmosphere.
Most of the 100 billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy are located in the galactic plane, forming another great circle around the sky. The two great circles intersect near Taurus and Sagittarius, two constellations opposite each other in the Earth's sky – areas where the search will initially concentrate.
"We have no idea how many – if any – other civilizations there are in our galaxy,” Henry noted. “One critical factor is how long a civilization – for example, our own – remains in existence. If, as we dearly hope, the answer is many millions of years, then even if civilizations are fairly rare, those in our ecliptic plane will have learned of our existence. They will know that life exists on Earth and they will have the patience to beam easily detectable radio (or optical) signals in our direction, if necessary, for millions of years in the hope, now realized, that a technological civilization will appear on Earth."
Casey Kazan with Rebecca Sato
Source: Johns Hopkins University