Is someone trying to phone home? Astronomers at the SETI institute have detected “a strong signal” in the direction of HD164595, a star 95 light years from Earth. At least one Neptune-sized planet orbits this star.
It was observed by the RATAN-600 radio telescope in Zelenchukskaya, in southern Russia. If the signal did come deliberately from a beacon broadcasting in all directions, as SETI is theorizing, it would require the technology of an advanced civilization, capable of converting energy from a nearby star into communication and power, as Paul Gilster reports in his blog Centauri Dreams. There are a few theories on why a civilization would send out this kind of signal, including a graffiti tag style “We were here” message, an ode to glory days, a funeral pyre or an SOS call for help.
But don’t get your tinfoil hats out just yet. As Nick Suntzeff, a Texas A&M University astronomer, told Ars Technica, it wouldn’t be surprising if we were just listening to ourselves, as the signal was observed in a part of the radio spectrum used by the military, for communication between ground stations and satellites.
A SETI committee meeting will discuss this finding at the 67th International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, on September 27.
“We can’t claim the detection of an extraterrestrial civilization from this observation,” Gilster writes. “What we can say is that the signal is interesting and merits further scrutiny.”