January 26, 2017

Wow !

On August 15, 1977, a strong narrowband radio signal was received by the Big Ear Radio Telescope of the Ohio State University, United States, then assigned to a SETI project (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence). Various hypotheses have been drawn over the possibility of a natural origin that has not been wholly discounted, assuming the Wow! Signal to be considered the best candidate for an alien radio transmission ever received. Astronomer Jerry R. Ehman circled an alphanumeric sequence, 6EQUJ5, which represents the intensity variation of the radio signal over time, measured as unitless signal-to-noise ratio and ranging from 0 to 36, with the noise averaged over the previous few minutes. Each individual character corresponds to a sample of the signal, taken every 12 seconds. It’s strange, over how the scientists did not just think it could mean something but felt it was the uttermost crucial subject to open up institutes and research fields that contributed to knowing the signal ratios and their rate of various other factors. In simple words, SETI wishes to explore life above us that could be benign or a threat to our existence. Prevention is better than cure may just not be for us but to other existing species that we believe in. To catch up more about this signal, its precise origin in the sky was uncertain due to the Big Ear telescope's design, which featured two feed horns, each pointing in a slightly different direction while following Earth's rotation. The Wow! signal was detected by one of the horns but not by the other, and the data was processed in such a way that it is impossible to determine which of the two horns received the signal. Interstellar scintillation of a weaker continuous signal—similar in effect to atmospheric twinkling could be an explanation, but that would not exclude the possibility of the signal's being artificial in origin. When Ehman went through the entire system over 50 times, he said that the most likely explanation for the message is from an extraterrestrial civilization. The previous statement contributes to the significance of skepticism. Since then, several attempts were made by Ehman as well as by other astronomers to detect and identify the signal again. The message was expected to appear three minutes apart in each of the telescope's feed horns, but that did not happen.

In 1987 and 1989, Robert H. Gray searched for the event using the META array at Oak Ridge Observatory but did not detect it. In a July 1995 test of signal detection software to be used in its upcoming Project Argus search, SETI League executive director H. Paul Shuch made several drift-scan observations of the Wow! Signal's coordinates with a 12-meter radio telescope at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia, also achieving a null result. In 1995 and 1996, Gray again searched for the signal using the Very Large Array, which is significantly more sensitive than Big Ear. Gray and Simon Ellingsen later searched for recurrences of the event in 1999 using the 26m radio telescope at the University of Tasmania's Mount Pleasant Radio Observatory. Six 14-hour observations were made at positions in the vicinity, but nothing like the Wow! Signal was detected. But in May 2015, a team of researchers using a Russian radio telescope spotted a strong radio signal coming from the vicinity of the sun-like star HD 164595, which lies 94 light-years away from Earth. This could only mean that we could hope to have faith over its re-occurrence and sooner or later decode this mystery.

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