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Thursday, September 02, 2004

Aliens trying to contact Earth???

New Scientist magazine reported on Tuesday, September 04, 2004, that an unexplained signal from deep space might be a contact from an alien civilization. The article Mysterious signals from 1000 light years away ,however, reports other possible causes of the signal too.

The telescope in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, seems to have detected this signal on three separate occasions.

It was detected by the SETI@home project, which uses programs running as screensavers on millions of personal computers worldwide.

The signal is named SHGb02+14a and is emitted at a frequency of about 1420 MHz. 1420 Mhz is also one of the main frequencies at which hydrogen readily absorbs and emits energy. Hydrogen is the most common element found in the universe. The detected signal's frequency is moving rapidyl, as if the tranmitter was located on a planet that is rotating very rapidly, about 40 times faster than Earth, and where the civilisation is not correcting the transmission for the motion of the planet. However, it is noted that the SETI@home software corrects for any drift in the frequency. Does that imply that it in no exactly an intelligent life out there?

The argument for this signal to be coming from extraterrestials is that it came from a point between the constellations Pisces and Aries, where there is no obvious star or planetary system within 1000 light years. Some astronomers argue that extraterrestrials would likely use this frequency to transmit any signals they would want to notify their presence. The signal doesn't seem to be a result of any obvious radio interference or noise, and it does not resemble the signature of any known astronomical object. This last statement is important, since it implies that there might be other reasons too which might have generated this signal as follows.

New object: It might be possible that the signal was generated by a natural phenomenon, which might be unknown to mankind. Jocelyn Bell Burnell of the University of Bath, UK, detected a pulsed radio signal in 1967, which the research team at the time thought was from extraterrestrials, but which turned out to be the first ever sighting of a pulsar.

Artefact: Since the signal always appears to be coming from the same point in the sky, it might that the signal is actually an artefact due to the telescope itself. The Arecibo telescope has a fixed dish reflector and scans the skies by changing the position of its receiver relative to the dish. At a certain position of the receiver relative to the dish, it might be possible that the waves are reflected from the ground onto the dish and then back to itself, making it appear to come from the space. It might also happent that there is an object on the ground near the telescope emitting at about 1420 MHz frequency. This possibility can be eliminated or confirmed by using a different telescope to listen for SHGb01+14a.

Fraud: Someone might have hacked into the SETI@home software such that such a frequency is detected. However, these signals were detected on two different occasions previously by different SETI@home users and there calculations were confirmed by others.

As of now, the source of the signals is not clear. But, one things can be said that folks in Roswell might be elated on hearing this news.


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