For the past six decades, astronomers have pointed radio telescopes into space, hoping that some day, something, somewhere will make contact. Last Friday, a report by Paul Gilster at Centauri Dreams announced that a radio telescope in Russia received faint transmissions from deep space, leading some to speculate that our call into the cosmos has finally been returned.
The RATAN-600 telescope in Zelenchukskaya, Russia received a signal from a star system 95 light years away in the constellation Hercules. The signal came from the same direction we sent our first postcard to the stars, the Aricebo Message, back in 1974.
The mysterious signals came from the direction of HD164595, a star very similar to our own. Although HD164595 is about 100 million years younger and its average temperature is 12 kelvin hotter. The star system is known to have one Neptune-like planet in its orbit and possibly others. Given the power of the signal, Gilster believes it could have been sent from a civilization that is technologically advanced enough to harness the entire power of its own star.
Dr. Andrew Siemion, director of the Berkeley SETI research center believes there are three distinct possibilities. “The first is that it is a natural astrophysical phenomenon—a variable radio source of some kind” . “Another possibility is that it is some kind of terrestrial interference…Or could be an instrumental artifact, like a problem with the data reduction. The third possibility is that it is a bonafide signal from an advanced technology from a distant star.” Since the announcement last Friday, radio telescopes at the Allen Telescope Array in California and the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia have been pointed in the direction of HD164595, but have yet to detect any new transmissions.