August 15, 1977, celebrated by alien believers as the day of the first message from aliens for almost 40 years. Scientists actually confirm that the “Wow! signal” came from space, but what is still so mysterious about this signal?
The Big Ear radio telescope observatory with the “The Big Ear” (also called: “Ohio State University Radio Observatory”) was conducted from 1963 to 1998 and was part of the SETI projects “The Ohio State University’s Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence”. During this SETI projects the observatory searched for extraterrestrial radio signals in the universe.
This complex SETI project had remained without any result until the SETI astrophysicist Dr. Jerry R. Ehrman discovered unusually strong signals from the constellation of Sagittarius with the main star Chi Sagittarii for 72 seconds on computer printout of the measurement results of August 15, 1977 at 11:16:01 local time (EST). Thrilled and amazed about this unexpected and anyway extremely interesting discovery for humanity, Dr. Ehrman circled the appropriate string “6EQUJ5” with a red pen and wrote “Wow!” at the left margin. The name for the most enigmatic signal which we received from space so far was created: “Wow! signal”.
A copy of the original computer printout can be seen here: Wikipedia.org – Wow! signal.
To understand the special nature of these characters, it must be explained at this point that this character string shows the strength of the signal in relation to the background sounds in space. It is incremented as follows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, A, B, C, D, … . So the recorded string of the “Wow! signal” “6EQUJ5” shows at its top (the “U”) a 30 times stronger signal than the background noise of the universe.
The particular importance of this “Wow! signal” is not only the strength but also the frequency range in which it was received. All astrological readings together showed that this signal was sent on the “hydrogen line”-frequency. This is exactly the frequency which the scientist would expect extraterrestrial intelligent species to send messages on. The element occurring most frequently in the universe, the hydrogen, absorbs energy and releases it on this frequency (1.420 MHz) – thus: “hydrogen line”. This wavelength is likely to be known to all intelligent creatures, so that they probably would use it for contacting messages. In addition, this frequency is locked because of the reason above for of all terrestrial radio communications.
Scientists realized very quickly that this “Wow! signal” are radio waves of extraterrestrial origin – because only a signal that does not come from the earth or the sun increases due to the earth’s rotation in its intensity, and then after half the time it declines again. This is exactly what the “Wow! signal” did and what can be seen here: Wikipedia.org – Wow! signal profile (plot of signal-to-noise ratio of the “Wow! signal” vs. time).
So we all could hope or fear that finally aliens try to contact us. However, it can be assumed that the extraterrestrial intelligent creatures would probably send the message not just once but several times or even infinite times so that they would eventually be picked up by another intelligent species and answered in the best case.
However, this “Wow! signal” or a similarly strong signal was never caught again by other telescopes or a parallel telescope. In addition, the data of this famous signal are not sufficient to identify a star, planet, or at least the distance of the source sending these radio waves. We only know that the “Wow! signal” came from the direction of the constellation Sagittarius with the main star Chi Sagittarii, which is 251 light years away from Earth. Nevertheless, the nearest star in that direction is still 122 light years away. Thus, the 1977 received “Wow! signal” was at least 122 years old.
On November 16, 1974 at 1:00 PM AST (Atlantic Standard Time), the so-called Arecibo message, a radio wave signal, was sent to possible aliens, containing information about us humans and humanity in binary code. This message was sent in a particular direction in space where the scientists assumed that the existence of intelligent life was more likely (the globular cluster M13 in the constellation Hercules). The Arecibo Observatory is located in Puerto Rico and is considered the second largest radio telescope in the world. But the humanity never got an answer to this Arecibo message till now.
Now astrologers and scientists around the world puzzle about the sender of the “Wow! signal” coming from the outer space.
Sources and further information
Kindle Book: Dr. Blume, Michael, Sind wir allein im All? Die Faszination von UFOs, Aliens und SETI (sciebooks 2) (sciebooks.de, 2012) Kindle-Edition
Wikipedia.org – Wow! signal (German)
Wikipedia.org – Ohio State University Radio Observatory
Wikipedia.org – Wow! signal
Wikipedia.org – Arecibo Botschaft (German)