Samstag, 16. Mai 2009

Australian SETI-Astronomers Detect Unknown Signal

The "Was it ET?"-Signal, detected in December 2008 | Copyright: Ragbir Bhathal

Sydney/ Australia - Instead of listening to possible alien radio signals, Australian OSETI-Astronomers looking for possible intelligent laser pulses from distant civilizations have detected an unknown signal that could not have been identified yet.

Contrary to the classical Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, (SETI) that is listening to intelligent radio signals from outer space, so called "OSETI" is searching for strong "optical" laser pulses or strong laser flashes. While SETI-researchers dismiss the idea of crop circles being a communication from aliens because - according to Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute - alien visitors with the ability to travel to Earth would surely use a more sophisticated technology to communicate, such as radio transmission, the idea of OSETI turns this argument around (even if certainly not in favour to the much debated crop circle phenomenon): "For an advanced civilization, radio wave technology would be old hat. (...) My strong feeling is that if there are (extraterrestrial intelligence) civilizations out there, they will send the signal by laser pulses or laser flashes", explained Dr. Ragbir Bhathal head of the "OZ OSETI PROJECT" at the University of Western Sydney in an interview with "The Australian".

Detailed view of the "Was it ET?"-Signal | Copyright: Ragbir Bhathal

And indeed, in the first week of last December (2008) Bhathal's team detected an unusual strong laser signal that could not have been identified nor did it re-occur since: "It may be a glitch in our equipment, or some astrophysical phenomena (e.g an optical pulsar) or some unknown source. We are still investigating it", told Bhathal to the German online-newsmagazine "".

Even if still unidentified, the signal's discovery seems to have created enough enthusiasm within the team to mark it with a "Was t ET?"-comment - not unlike the famous "Wow"-Mark next to the detection of a strong, narrowband radio signal detected by Dr. Jerry R. Ehman on August 15, 1977, while working on a SETI project at the Big Ear radio telescope of Ohio State University.

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However, to be treated as an official intelligent signal from an alien civilization, the puls must occur again several times thus its existence can be confirmed and analyzed by other astronomers as well. Furthermore other natural, astronomical or technological source from earth has to be excluded before the official SETI-procedure for announcing the detection of an alien signal would start to roll.

While the newly discovered signal is the first still mysterious OSETI-Signal, classic SETI has produced already a few detected signals, that were first thought to be of a possible extraterrestrial intelligent nature. However, the only signal which is still controversially discussed today is the already mentioned "Wow-Signal" from 1977. While a source on earth, in earth's orbit or even from within the solar system seems very unlikely, most researchers at least do agree that the "Wow-Signal" came from interstellar space, while its nature still remains a mystery today.

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