Scientists have finally found an explanation for an intriguing signal that appears to come from our closest neighbors, and it was found while searching for alien life.
Last year, it appeared that radio telescopes obtained data from the Proxima Centauri system, which may be an indication of space technology.
Since then, the team listening hack, a major project to search for life elsewhere in the universe, analyzed the signal, dubbed BLC1, to see if it was indeed coming from another civilization.
They found that the signal is in fact merely an “earth echo” in the sense that it reflects human technologies, according to two new research papers published in Nature Astronomy.
“Evidence indicates that the signal is interference from human technology, although we have not been able to determine its exact source,” Sophia Sheikh of the Breakthrough Listen team explains in a statement.
Breakthrough Listen helps support the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and in 2020 team members using the Parks Telescope in Australia reported an intriguing signal they picked up when they pointed the telescope at Proxima Centauri, the closest known planet outside our solar system.
But after Sophia and her team performed a deeper analysis of the signal, it started to look less strange, explains Andrew Simeon of the University of California, Berkeley, who also leads the Breakthrough Listen team.
“In the case of this particular filter, our analysis suggests that it is unlikely to be from a transmitter in the Proxima Centauri system,” Simeon says. “However, this is without a doubt one of the most interesting signals we’ve seen so far.”
Sophia added that “the signals are spaced at regular frequency intervals in the data, and these periods appear to be identical to the multiples of the frequencies used by the frequencies that are commonly used in various electronic devices.”
Yuri Milner, the Russian billionaire who founded Breakthrough Listen, noted that the search represented a major step in finding alien life, despite the fact that he found the opposite in this case.
“The significance of this finding is that the search for civilizations outside our planet is now a mature and rigorous field of experimental science,” he said.
Astronomers looking for signs of alien civilizations, or technological fingerprints, have to choose from a variety of similar signals that come to us from Earth.
Radio telescopes must try to capture all the radio signals humanity has created, from our phones, television transmitters, radar systems, and more, and filter them from any potential extraterrestrial signals.
“Proud explorer. Freelance social media expert. Problem solver. Gamer. Extreme travel aficionado.”