We are looking for signs of ETs in the wrong way

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For 30 hours, between April and May 2020, scientists from the Australian Parkes telescope must have felt the same thing that astronomer Jerry R. Ehman experienced in 1977 when he perceived, in the Big Ear radio telescope records, a strong signal, lasting 72 seconds , coming from the constellation of Sagittarius. It is not yet known what generated the so-called WOW signal or the radio wave beam that appears to have left the region where the star closest to us is: Proxima Centauri, at 4.24 light years.

The study is still ongoing, looking for something on Earth that may have generated the signal; this, however, did not dampen the enthusiasm of researchers from the Breakthrough Listen Initiative, a $ 100 million and 1-decade project in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (or SETI, acronym for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence).

The signal, named Breakthrough Listen Candidate 1 or simply BLC-1, was picked up for hours while Parkes looked at Proxima Centauri, a red dwarf with at least 2 planets orbiting it – one of them, Proxima Centauri b, a rock giant occupying the habitable area of ​​the system.

For 30 hours, between April and May 2020, scientists from the Australian Parkes telescope must have felt the same thing that astronomer Jerry R. Ehman experienced in 1977 when he perceived, in the Big Ear radio telescope records, a strong signal, lasting 72 seconds , coming from the constellation of Sagittarius. It is not yet known what generated the so-called WOW signal or the radio wave beam that appears to have left the region where the star closest to us is: Proxima Centauri, at 4.24 light years.

The study is still ongoing, looking for something on Earth that may have generated the signal; this, however, did not dampen the enthusiasm of researchers from the Breakthrough Listen Initiative, a $ 100 million and 1-decade project in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (or SETI, acronym for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence).

The signal, named Breakthrough Listen Candidate 1 or simply BLC-1, was picked up for hours while Parkes looked at Proxima Centauri, a red dwarf with at least 2 planets orbiting it – one of them, Proxima Centauri b, a rock giant occupying the habitable area of ​​the system.

At the end of the event, the region was silent; likewise, the WOW, the signal, did not repeat itself. And that, according to astrophysicist Michael Garrett, director of the Jodrell Bank Center for Astrophysics and board member of the Breakthrough Listen Initiative, “exposes a problem that has been following SETI research since the beginning: signs that disappear”.

Unique signs

In an article for The Conversation, Garrett ponders that “if BLC-1 never repeats itself, it will be very difficult to conduct the kind of detailed monitoring that will convince scientists that it is an alien message. Skeptics will argue correctly that human-generated radio interference is more likely. ”

Both the WOW and the signal captured by the Australian telescope run into the same problem: in addition to being unique events, they were captured by a telescope with a single antenna. For Garrett, the search for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence should try a new approach.

“With a satellite dish, there is no way to know exactly where a signal came from. While the Parkes telescope pointed at Proxima Centauri, hundreds of thousands of other stars were also present in its field of view, and any one of them could be the source of the BLC-1, ”explained the astrophysicist.

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