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Has the 'Wow!' signal finally been solved ?

June 11, 2017 | Comment icon 25 comments

Did the famous signal come from a comet ? Image Credit: NASA/JPL
Scientists now believe that the mysterious 1977 space signal had actually come from a passing comet.
Astronomers have been listening out for extraterrestrial signals for years, but one case - that of a strange signal picked up by a school telescope at Ohio State University 40 years ago - has since remained one of the most tantalizing and perplexing examples ever recorded.

Originating in the globular cluster of M55 in the constellation Sagittarius, the peculiar signal lasted approximately 72 seconds. Astronomer Jerry Ehman, who was the first to examine the computer readout, famously wrote the word 'Wow!' on the page.

Now however, four decades on from the signal's original detection, astronomer Antonio Paris from St. Petersburg College, Florida and colleagues believe that they may have finally solved the mystery and unfortunately it doesn't appear to have anything to do with aliens.
They found that two comets, 266P/Christensen and P/2008 Y2 (Gibbs), happened to be passing through the part of the sky being watched by the observatory when the signal was picked up.

By surveying the same region of sky as one of the same comets was passing by again, they managed to record exactly the same signal that had been detected back in 1977.

"This investigation, therefore, has concluded that cometary spectra are observable at 1,420MHz and that the 1977 'Wow!' signal was a natural phenomenon from a solar system body," the team wrote.

Source: | Comments (25)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #16 Posted by Timonthy 5 years ago
Because they offered a reasonable and evidence-backed explanation?† What a stupid comment.†
Comment icon #17 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 5 years ago
Wrong. A comet is a moving source. Over the next few days it would not have been in the same place and so the likelihood is that it would not have been picked up by a search looking for a signal coming from the same point in space, thus a PERFECT explanation of why the signal was not received again. Your argument expects us to believe that the signal can't have come from a comet, which was exactly in the right place to be the source of the signal because that would have been too much of a coincidence for it to have only been detected once, yet a signal from an alien intelligence was broadcast ... [More]
Comment icon #18 Posted by fred_mc 5 years ago
Ok. You might very well be right, I don't remember what it was that time, only that they said that they had probably found the source then too.
Comment icon #19 Posted by Adampadum123 5 years ago
I'm sure a comet would have not gave off such a unique signal as the wow signal. I mean when this first happened they would have had to consider it been a comet back then! and it was rurled out by scientist to be anything known to man
Comment icon #20 Posted by Athena1979 5 years ago
I think life is special and unique. I really think we are the abnormality in this universe. It was an unexplainable event. I don't know how someone could conclusively say "it was this comet". Who knows. There are so many mysteries out there.†
Comment icon #21 Posted by Hawkin 5 years ago
So it was a comet giving off flatulence...ok
Comment icon #22 Posted by bmk1245 5 years ago
Unique in what way? Comet 266P/Christensen was discovered in 2006, almost†30 years after wow detection. And, BTW,† hypothesis about cometary origin of wow signal was tested†successfully.
Comment icon #23 Posted by Still Waters 5 years ago
Latest - †
Comment icon #24 Posted by TripGun 5 years ago
I can give a certified best guess until the next certified best guess comes around...
Comment icon #25 Posted by Merc14 5 years ago
Now the astronomer who saw the Wow signal and the one who now runs the radio telescope say that a comet could not have caused the signal.†† †

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