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Another star calling?

publicado a la‎(s)‎ 10 ene 2021, 13:44 por Plataforma Sites Dgac
On Friday, December 18, 2020 , the British newspaper The Guardian leaked the news that a multimillionaire project called Breakthrough Listen had detected a mysterious radio signal coming from Proxima Centauri, the star closest to the Sun, at “just” 4.2 light years away.
Radiotelescopes scan space, searching for any signal that comes from eventual intelligent life forms.

An artist's depiction of one of the planets from the Proxima Centauri star, located at "just" 4.2 light years from the Sun and the Earth, and where the signal detected by the astronomers would come from.

César Fuentes, an astronomer of the University of Chile’s Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, a researcher at Centro de Excelencia en Astrofísica y Tecnologías Afines (CATA) and a Ph.D. in Astrophysics from Harvard University.
The signal was found by reviewing archival data during the second half of last year, and although it appears to come from Proxima Centauri, scientists still cannot rule out that it originated from Earth-based interference. That greatly decreases the probability that it is a transmission from some form of extraterrestrial intelligence, or what is known as a “technological signature”.

The scientists responsible for the discovery warn that there is still much work to be done, but they believe that the interest generated by the finding is justified.

“It has some particular properties that caused it to pass many of our checks, and we cannot yet explain it,” said Andrew Siemion, an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley, and head of the $100 million Breakthrough Listen project, funded by the Russian-Israeli billionaire businessman and physicist Yuri Milner. 

What it’s special about the signal is that it occupies a very narrow band of radio spectrum, 982 megahertz, which is usually a frequency of transmissions used by human-made satellites and space vehicles.

“We don’t know of any natural way to compress electromagnetic energy into a single bin in frequency”, Siemion said, although he also warned that it could be due to some previously unknown natural phenomenon.

The signal was originally detected in late April, 2019, from the Parkes radio telescope in Australia. Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf star and so far there have been discovered two planets orbiting around it, dubbed “Proxima b” and “Proxima c”, of which the former is within the “habitable zone” defined by astrophysicists. 


César Fuentes, an astronomer of the University of Chile’s Faculty of Mathematics and Physics and a researcher at Centro de Excelencia en Astrofísica y Tecnologías Afines (CATA), also recommended to exercise restraint. 

“What we can hope is that this signal and these data will continue to be investigated precisely because this detection has not been replicated,” said Fuentes, who is also a Ph.d. in Astrophysics from Harvard University. 

Indeed, one of the problems with the mysterious signal, christened by scientists as “BLC1”, or “Breakthrough Listen Candidate 1”, is that it could not be detected again.

“It is very unlikely that this will turn of to be a signal that belongs to intelligent life, although of course there is a possibility, however low it may be,” added Fuentes.

In 1977, astronomers detected a similar signal known as “Wow!”, which they never picked up again. 

“There have been similar cases of radio signals that have not had a good explanation either, with characteristics that seem to have no natural origin, or there is no natural explanation, which does not mean that it does not, but rather that we are unable to explain it, but later on they are very difficult to corroborate because they are not detected again”, said Fuentes. 

All specialists agree that the signal is most likely coming from some previously unknown source of Earth-based interference and that more may be known about it in the coming months, because studies of the mysterious signal continue.

Source: Scientific American.