"WOW!" The Famous 1977 'ET Signal' -A Look Back
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February 09, 2010

"WOW!" The Famous 1977 'ET Signal' -A Look Back

SETI 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.

Jerry Ehman, the young Columbus, Ohio volunteer man who spotted it in the computer printout, scrawled the now infamous "WOW!" in the margin. The Big Ear team explored every possibility: military transmissions, reflections of Earth signals off asteroids or satellites, natural emissions from stars, but nothing fit. And most odd of all, the signal came from a blank patch of sky totally devoid of stars. The young engineer's only thought was that it could have been beamed from a spaceship traveling through the universe in search of some sign of life.

800px-Wow_signal[1] 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

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1248974/The-sewage-engineer-Wow-Signal-proof-really-IS-life-Mars.html


Comments

The satellites are looking strong.

I wonder, did anything happen the night before Michael Jackson died?
//Good day to bury (good/bad/big) news

Great article to remind us of the Wow Signal! I had never heard the theory about an Earth signal bouncing off a piece of space junk. I always liked to fantasize that it was a signal that was temporarily amplified by gravitational lensing... but space junk reflection sounds more plausible (and less exciting, unfortunately).

You did however forget to mention this quote from Ehman, which would have gone nicely with the article:

"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."

Hahaha, that was funny, JustAMo! You're not just a mo, you're the mo!

perhaps the ETs live on a different timescale so the next signal wont happen for a while yet.

Imagine the exictment of Ehman when he received the signal of
1420 MHz ...moving and exhilarating ....Not a single peep .. after the first one..it winked out .Lot of theories ..Is it a signal generated by internal communication by alien ships ..
As ehman put it, it was a earth bound signal deflected by space debris.. For SETI 70's was a period of adolescent optimism ..a thought that creatures not different from us is pointing their dishes to us from nearly every star ...

The feeling that the entire 200 billion galaxy observable universe is created for man kind is considered as arrogance know
SETI has grown to such an extent that even house hold pc's has seti@home( is it the world's largest super computer ?)installed in it which search for signals ..The power had grown up .. still the stars remain silent ..

Just down load the free soft ware ..even if u are sleeping ur pc will do the rest ..A galactic network ...Hope with the funding of Paul allen from Microsoft we will look at more frequencies with better equipments ..

If a civilization is really advanced they won't want to contact us.

Actually, this was later recanted:

"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."

because it was proven to pretty much be impossible for two reasons. One, the logics of space-debris reflecting radio signals for such a long period of time at that exact moment is thought to pretty much be impossible, as something that large would have been noticed. Secondly, transmitters across the world are forbidden to use the 1420 MHz band -- it'd have to be a double coincidence to be from earth, thus extremely unlikely.

We need to setup a radio telescope on th moon in one of the vacant craters there.

Robert is right, it's unlikely to have been an Earth based transmission on the frequency they were listening to. To say the double coincidence is unlikely is an understatement.

I always liked to fantasize that it was a signal that was temporarily amplified by gravitational lensing... but space junk reflection sounds more plausible (and less exciting, unfortunately).

Check out the Drake Equation, it proves mathematically that there is life in our galaxy.

http://61ffb05f.ubucks.net


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