Alien signals from a faraway star? Nope, scientists say it’s likely interference

Well, that was quick. Just days after news of a potential alien signal from the area near star HD164595 made its rounds in the media, it now appears quite likely that the signals received were indeed terrestrial in origin.

Russia’s RATAN-600 radio telescope received the signal in the 11GHz band in May of last year, which would have been highly unusual if it indeed came from space. Reports over the past several days mentioned that a transmission around that frequency could have been interference from a military source, and while we don’t have confirmation of that definitively, that just might be what Russian scientists heard.

The SETI Institute — the organization behind the search for extraterrestrial life — spoke out against any alien origin. “The discoverers didn’t alert the SETI community to this find until now, which is not as expected,” SETI’s senior astronomer Seth Shostak wrote on Tuesday. “According to both practice and protocol, if a signal seems to be of deliberate and extraterrestrial origin, one of the first things to do is to get others to attempt confirming observations. That was not done in this case.”

On Wednesday, the Special Astrophysical Observatory of the Russian Academy of Sciences decided to step up and clarify its findings, including the fact that it had already determined that the signal was likely not alien in origin after all.
“An interesting radio signal at a wavelength of 2.7 cm was detected in the direction of one of the objects (star system HD164595 in Hercules) in 2015. Subsequent processing and analysis of the signal revealed its most probable terrestrial origin,” the statement reads.

It went on to say that while there may have been other items of interest in the study, it was way too early to make any claims based on those results. But perhaps the most useful line was saved for last, and it’s sure to disappoint those who hoped this was the first evidence we’re not alone: “It can be said with confidence that no sought-for signal has been detected yet.”

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