Back on February 20, 2012, I wrote, in depth, about something called the WOW! Signal. Discovered in 1977 it was a signal so strong that it cut through the flotsam and jetsam of noise our universe normally makes to catch the attention of a scientist named Robert Gray. Unfortunately, he was working from recorded data when he made his discovery and no one has since been able to replicate his results. Or verify his basic conclusion; this signal did not originate on Earth. The implications, if he was right, are staggering. It would be proof that we aren’t alone in the universe. That there are other beings, at least, as technologically advanced as we. But, alas and alack (to quote Rapmaster Billy S.), tantalizing isn’t the same as proven. I don’t care what you heard on FOX! News. Or, as my surfer scientist bud likes to say, “gnarley shit dude.” No, wait, well, yes, he does say that, but he also says “Sometimes where there’s smoke, there’s steam.” So you don’t need to call the fire department every time. And in this case, you don’t convene the U.N. to formulate a plan on how to deal with imminent contact.
You see, this week something fun happened.
Robin Seemangel, of the Observer, writes that a team of Russian scientists found something extraordinary, and replicable.
An international team of scientists from the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is investigating mysterious signal spikes emitting from a 6.3-billion-year-old star in the constellation Hercules—95 light years away from Earth. The implications are extraordinary and point to the possibility of a civilization far more advanced than our own.
The unusual signal was originally detected on May 15, 2015, by the Russian Academy of Science-operated RATAN-600 radio telescope in Zelenchukskaya, Russia, but was kept secret from the international community. Interstellar space reporter Paul Gilster broke the story after the researchers quietly circulated a paper announcing the detection of “a strong signal in the direction of HD164595.”
The mysterious star’s designation is HD164595, and it’s considered to be sun-like in nature with a nearly identical metallic composition to our own star. So far, a single Neptune-like (but warmer) planet has been discovered in its orbit—HD 164595 b. But as Gilster explained, “There could, of course, be other planets still undetected in this system.”
Decorated Italian SETI researcher and mathematician Claudio Maccone along with Russia’s Nikolai Bursov of the Special Astrophysical Observatory are the principal scientists working on the apparent discovery. They claim that “permanent monitoring of this target is needed.”
“The signal conceivably fits the profile for an intentional transmission from an extraterrestrial source,” said Alan Boyle, author of The Case for Pluto who reported the story for Geekwire. “In any case, the blip is interesting enough to merit discussion by those who specialize in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.”
The signal’s strength indicates that if it in fact came from a isotropic beacon, the power source would have to be built by a Kardashev Type II civilization. (The Kardashev scale is used to determine the progress of a civilization’s technological development by measuring how much energy was used to transmit an interstellar message.) An ‘Isotropic’ beacon means a communication source emitting a signal with equal power in all directions while promoting signal strength throughout travel.
In his acclaimed work “Transmission of Information by Extraterrestrial Civilizations,” Soviet astronomer Nikolai Kardashev explained that a Type II civilization would be able to harness the energy of their entire host star. The most common hypothetical example of this would be a Dyson Sphere—which is a massive artificial structure that could completely encapsulate a star and transfer the energy to a nearby planet.
Basically, if the signal was beamed out into the galaxy without aim or direction, that would require an enormous amount of power to actually be detected. But what if the signal was beamed specifically at our solar system? Well, that would require less energy and could indicate the presence of a Kardashev Type I civilization—meaning that it could be a highly technological, contemporary society that harnesses the solar energy emitted by its local star, much like our planet does with solar panels. This particular civilization’s social structure is theorized to be completely globalized and interconnected.
“The signal is provocative enough that the RATAN-600 researchers are calling for permanent monitoring of this target,” said Gilster. And that’s exactly what is transpiring. As of last night, the SETI institute is diverting its Allen Telescope Array in northern California to investigate while their counterparts at METI International (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence) will use Panama’s Boquete Optical Observatory.
The detection of the mysterious signal and the ensuing investigations will be discussed at the IAA SETI Permanent Committee during the 67th International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, on September 27—the same day and location where Elon Musk will reveal his plans to colonize Mars. The Observer will be following up on both these stories from the Congress.
Okay, let’s start with the Kardashev scale. It is a scale that measures the energy usage, and the amount of discernible waste and other signs which are attendant to such use. Level I is the lowest and Level IV borders on god-like powers, at least as we understand them. Us happy Earthers haven’t made it to Level I yet.
That’s right, by our own standards we’re primitives.
A Level II civilization would be one that harvests all available power in its solar system. We’re nowhere near that, although we have the theoretical ability to do so if we got around to setting that as a planetary goal.
Back on September 3, 2015, I wrote about NASA’s experiments with something called an Electromagnetic Drive. While it happily violates a bunch of the laws of physics (or so it appears), it seems to be doing so consistently. Slowly, but surely, we seem to be heading towards creating a Warp Drive.
Now, if us evolutionary heathens, can figure this stuff out, what makes you think a civilization that ranks far beyond us on the technological scale hasn’t done so as well.
Also, just FYI, HD164595 is a mere 95 light years from here. Even with slower than light travel, that’s a distance we could cover. So you know they could too.
UPDATE: Russian scientists are now saying that the signal may have emanated from a rouge, unregistered Russian satellite. However, it must be noted, that the satellite in question has not been identified or located.