Scientists report that they have detected radio signals coming from a nearby star.
At just 11 light-years away, Ross 128 is quite close by—in cosmic terms, of course. Ross 128 is a red dwarf star in the constellation Virgo, and though it's quite close, it's too faint for us to see it with the naked eye.
Scientists at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico noticed that Ross 128 had been emitting strange signals. The scientists were surveying a cluster of red dwarfs when they noticed the strange event. Other similar stars in the vicinity didn't seem to be emitting any signals, so scientists think that the signals may be unique to Ross 128.
“We realized that there were some very peculiar signals in the ten-minute dynamic spectrum that we obtained from Ross 128,” Abel Méndez, director of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory, wrote in a blog post. As of now, scientists still aren't sure of what these signals are.
Researchers at the Arecibo Observatory were looking for planets that orbit the group of red dwarf stars when they noticed the strange signals. Méndez wrote that the signals “consisted of broadband quasi-periodic non-polarized pulses with very strong dispersion-like features.” However strange these signals were to the researchers, however, there's one thing that we the public should know: that it's highly unlikely that these signals come from intelligent alien life.
Receiving radio signals coming from outer space is always an exciting event, at least for us laymen. There's always the possibility that perhaps, this time, there's an intelligent alien civilization behind the signals. Perhaps, this time, the signals really are our first contact with intelligent alien life. However, while this optimism isn't necessarily a bad thing, we must be prepared for disappointment time and again. Scientists say that alien communication is at the bottom of possible explanations for the signals.
So what are these strange signals anyway? Scientists have three possible explanations. First, it's possible that the signals are actually emissions akin to a Type II solar flare. Second, it's possible that another object within the vicinity of Ross II is emitting the signals. Third, it's possible that the signals are coming from a satellite in high orbit.
This means that scientists still aren't sure about what the signals are and where they're coming from. The source could be local, which is where a lot of radio signals come from. However, it's also entirely possible that the source is astronomical. Méndez hopes that it's the latter.
The team says that they'll likely have the final answer by late this week or early next week. Once scientists figure out the source of the radio signals, however, the next step is to find out why the source is sending out these signals. Because the signals are unique, scientists need to know the nature of the signals so they can be recognizable in the future. With any luck, we'll soon be privy to information on where and what the signals are coming from.
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