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Curious radio signal stirs talk of extraterrestrials

A curious radio signal picked up by a Russian telescope is probably not a transmission from an extraterrestrial civilization, the SETI Institute says.

HAT CREEK, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES (AUGUST 30, 2016) (SETI HANDOUT) – A curious radio signal picked up by a Russian telescope is probably not a transmission from an extraterrestrial civilization, but astronomers in California are taking a second look anyway, the SETI Institute said on Tuesday (August 30).

A group of Russian astronomers last year detected what appeared to be a non-naturally occurring radio signal in the general location of a star system 94 light-years from Earth.

Their findings emerged after Italian researcher Claudio Maccone, who chairs the International Academy of Astronautics committee on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI, told colleagues of a presentation he heard about the signal, said Seth Shostak, a director at the SETI Institute.

“I suspect that this is just terrestrial interference,” Shostak said.

If the Russians thought they had a serious signal from ET, he said, they also likely would have disclosed it sooner.

Nevertheless, SETI astronomers have spent the last two nights using an array of radio telescopes in California to study the suspect star, HD 164595, which has one known planet in orbit.

Shostak said there was still a possibility the signal was an intermittent transmission.

“There is a small caveat there, because, indeed, maybe they just ping us intermittently, you know, every two months or every two years or every two weeks. And so if you just make a random observation, it’s very unlikely you’ll find the signal again. So it may be worth coming back to the star system and looking again in the future. But at the moment, it doesn’t seem like this was ET trying to phone us,” he said.