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Mystery signal picked up from Proxima Centauri


Posted on Friday, 18 December, 2020 | Comment icon 136 comments

An artist's impression of exoplanet Proxima Centauri b. Image Credit: ESO / M. Kornmesser
Astronomers are currently investigating a signal coming from the direction of our closest neighboring star system.
The signal, which was reportedly picked up by the Parkes telescope in Australia last year, is now being investigated by researchers from the Breakthrough Listen Project - a $100 million initiative dedicated to the search for evidence of intelligent extraterrestrial communications.

According to reports, it appears to have come from the Proxima Centauri system - the nearest star system to our own and home to two planets including one that could potentially support life.

At the moment it remains unclear what might have produced the signal and astronomers have so far failed to find a conventional source.

Believed to have been picked up in the 980MHz range, the signal is particularly tantalising because it seems to shift in frequency in a manner consistent with the movement of a planet.
It has been described as "the first serious candidate since the 'Wow!' signal."

Breakthrough Listen itself was launched back in 2016 and received the blessings of late physicist Prof Stephen Hawking who described the work it was doing as "critically important."

"Mankind has a deep need to explore, to learn, to know," he said at the time.

"It is important for us to know if we are alone in the dark."

Could the Proxima Centauri signal be evidence that we are not ?

Source: Mail Online | Comments (136)


Tags: Proxima Centauri


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #127 Posted by bison on 5 March, 2021, 21:38
An ongoing targeted search of  the Proxima Centauri system has been conducted since 2004. The Center for Space Laser Awareness uses the La Silla Observatory in Chile to look for laser signals from our closest neighboring star. They report a series of  29 observations conducted over the months March to July, 2019. These nicely bracket the times the Breakthrough  Listen Candidate  # 1 signal  was heard, in April and May, 2019. No laser signals were detected, but at least we now know that such signals, of even modest power, are not occurring frequently, if at all. For all we knew, the 982 MegaHer... [More]
Comment icon #128 Posted by bison on 14 March, 2021, 0:49
Astrophysicist Caleb Scharf, director of astrobiology at Columbia University, has a few interesting thoughts about the Proxima Centauri signal specifically, sprinkled into a more general article about SETI prospects.  He thinks it unlikely that a stray Earthly signal is the cause, because, he explains, today's radio astronomers have equipment with the ability to screen out such radio emissions, and to quickly identify any that happen to slip through. This suggests that, under normal circumstances, the original leaking of the story to a newspaper might never have occurred, either because  the P... [More]
Comment icon #129 Posted by Hyperionxvii on 14 March, 2021, 1:03
All of this pure speculation is interesting. But it's still only pure speculation. I need way more to even be interested in this. One thing they did mention in that video, which is worth mentioning again 'It's a very active red dwarf'. So yeah, the surface of that planet is being constantly bombarded by deadly solar flares, not a good recipe for life. And we probably couldn't even maintain internet in those conditions. Or maybe not even an atmosphere. 
Comment icon #130 Posted by Abramelin on 14 March, 2021, 15:36
From the link of Bison's latest post: "At least two planets are known to orbit the star. One is a gas giant and the other is believed to be a rocky world about 17% more massive than Earth. Known as Proxima b, the planet circles its star every 11 days and lies in the so-called “habitable zone”, where the temperature is right for water to flow and pool." First: if there is intelligent life, it may live under the surface of the planet. Second: it may be life, but not 'as we know it'. Maybe they thrive on those solar flares. Third: we can, I think, safely assume there is an atmosphere. If we can l... [More]
Comment icon #131 Posted by Hyperionxvii on 14 March, 2021, 15:39
Of course those are all possibilities. We'll see. 
Comment icon #132 Posted by bison on 30 March, 2021, 23:48
It's now been nine weeks since Dr. Peter Worden, the Executive Director of The Breakthrough Initiatives, parent organization of Breakthrough Listen, said in an interview that the results of the analysis on the Proxima Centauri Signal were about to be submitted for publication.  To date, no word on the status of those two promised scientific papers, and no preprints of them, either. This is despite a huge interest in this story, both in the public, and in the scientific community. Suppose that the conclusion reached by the Breakthrough Listen team had been that man-made interference was respons... [More]
Comment icon #133 Posted by Nuclear Wessel on 31 March, 2021, 3:33
I'm cautiously optimistic that something extraordinary has been found. What a thing that would be, eh? To finally have some kind of evidence for an ET civilization. That'd be truly remarkable.
Comment icon #134 Posted by bison on 13 April, 2021, 18:17
Sofia Sheikh is a member of the Breakthrough Listen observation team which received the Proxima Centauri signal at Parkes Observatory in 2019.  She spoke yesterday at the Breakthrough Initiatives seminar called Breakthrough Discuss. Speaking for the observation team, she is now saying  that it has been determined that the Proxima signal is Earth-based interference. The reasons she gives for this determination quickly become quite intricately technical in nature, since she is speaking primarily to fellow-scientists. To summarize: The signal has never been heard again, after those few days in th... [More]
Comment icon #135 Posted by Abramelin on 4 September, 2021, 20:17
Hello @bison Are there any updates?
Comment icon #136 Posted by bison on 4 September, 2021, 21:32
Nothing new heard about the Proxima Centauri signal,  since my last post. A search I just made also turned up nothing new. From this, I believe we can surmise that the listening sessions in the letter part of April either heard nothing at all, or merely confirmed that the signal gives every indication of being Earth-based radio interference. Since a specific source of this interference has never been mentioned, they presumably couldn't characterize it in this way, or perhaps they never heard it again, after those few days of the original detections.  The Proxima Centauri signal may be viewed a... [More]


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