The history of mankind is riddled with the weird and the wonderful; bizarre people, strange places and odd events. For centuries, we’ve told each other fantastic stories around campfires and in darkened rooms. Tales of ghosts, UFOs, and conspiracies, but are these stories exactly that: Stories? There’s only one way to find out! Join me as I dive down the rabbit hole and into… the Unexplained Files.
This week: The Wow! Signal
Ohio State University. 15 August 1977. In 1959, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence was established with the aim of detecting radio signals that were drifting through space from distant planets that were home to intelligent civilisations. SETI’s radio telescopes had been scouring the skies in search of a sign, a signal, to answer the burning question: Are we alone in the universe? The painstaking search of the heavens had been ongoing for years without a hint of success, when shocked astronomer Jerry R. Ehman saw something incredible.
Since the project’s inception, the radio telescopes had been printing out a smattering of ones and twos, but today, where ones and twos usually reign, he’s left staring at something different altogether.
"6EQUJ5", to be precise.
You’re Kidding, Right?
A section of the page looks like the computer had been at the drinks cabinet. A number 6, a 5, and a letter Q, which is nuts, but at least it had the decency to follow with a U. A typo, or were the aliens providing us with the key to their Wi-Fi? Whatever was going on, the researcher grabbed hold of a red biro and scrawled the now famous Wow! which gives the signal its name.
Actually, the telescopes were set to a frequency which detects hydrogen, and the printout gives a rating for how strong the return signal from said hydrogen is. For no return, the printout left a blank space, for stronger returns the numbers 1-9 were shown, with 9 being strongest. But it didn’t stop there. The very strongest signals would return a rating from A (stronger than nine) to Z (the strongest). For the first time ever, the signal had returned a letter U.
Wow, indeed. But aliens?
Hold Your Horses!
Some clever shit, namely Professor Antonio Paris of St Petersburg College, Florida, went about researching the Wow! signal like a detective looking at a cold case. And where others had failed, he found something. The area of the sky that SETI were eyeballing (or should that be earwigging?) at that time was actually a relatively busy bit of sky. In the interim between the signal’s detection and his own research, two comets had been discovered. Think of the maths here: a miniscule bit of sky, and a bit of rock moving at Christ knows what speed. What are the odds?
However, comets move in orbits, which means that they come back. So Professor Paris checked where the comets were at the time the Wow! signal was found and guess what…
Make Your Mind Up Time.
He was right. See, comets are surrounded by clouds of hydrogen. Big clouds of hydrogen millions of kilometres across. When Ehman detected “Wow!” the frequency on the radio telescopes was at 1420MHz; a radio frequency that hydrogen emits naturally.
Before we declare the Wow! signal as bollocks, Paris has to put his hypothesis to the test. There are some that think the hydrogen clouds from a couple of comets wouldn’t be able to emit such a strong signal as to reach a letter U. As somebody who wants to believe, I can only hope that the sceptics are right and Paris is wrong…
But at this point, I have to say his theory looks as if it could be a sound one. The bastard.
RATING: 1=Bollocks 2=Not convinced 3=Possibly… 4=Compelling stuff 5=Holyshittheskyisfalling
What do you think? Comment below!
Interested in UFOs? Click here to read about the Phoenix Lights incident!
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In this blog I'll be bringing to you short tales of things that go bump in the night, true stories of weird and unexplained events, and the real-life news of all things odd and macabre, and entertain you along the way.