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Mystery signal picked up from Proxima Centauri

Posted on Friday, 18 December, 2020 | Comment icon 114 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 (114)

Tags: Proxima Centauri

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #105 Posted by Nobu on 5 February, 2021, 3:08
We have the algorithms that can tell us if something contains a code. To a pretty high degree.   and if someone was sending a “hello” message - wouldn’t it be simple?   I don’t know about this one. It’s interesting and I don’t really have an opinion yet. Tbh the government owns the best algorithms and the question really is- would it be leaked if they found something? I worked for them and I think in this case probably not.   so I don’t really have an opinion. Very interesting.
Comment icon #106 Posted by bison on 6 February, 2021, 18:36
The possibility that there is modulation present in the Proxima signal has been considered. With the long integration time used, around 17 seconds, much could have been missed.  The statement about there being no modulation came from the Breakthrough Listen team. This presumably means that they weren't able to find any, even with whatever computer analysis they  had applied to the signal. This doesn't rule out the possibility that further analysis turned up something, and that they are holding this news for release  in the promised scientific papers.  For all we know, they might even have reac... [More]
Comment icon #107 Posted by bison on 9 February, 2021, 21:18
It's been over two weeks now, since Dr. Peter Worden, Executive Director of Breakthrough Listen, claimed that two scientific papers on the Proxima signal were 'about to be submitted'. I took that to mean in hours, or, at most, a few days. In  the field of astronomy, preprints  are typically issued online, when a paper is submitted to a scientific journal. The extraordinary public interest in the Proxima signal would make this seem an even more obvious thing to do  than usual.  If there was a ready, mundane explanation for the signal, as Dr. Worden suggested, why shouldn't it be given? Meanwhil... [More]
Comment icon #108 Posted by XenoFish on 9 February, 2021, 21:24
Or S E N D N O O D S
Comment icon #109 Posted by L.A.T.1961 on 9 February, 2021, 21:34
I was recently reading a piece on centauri dreams, the group who detected the signal did not give a definitive answer as to the signals origin but implied that it was the lack of a second receiving station that stopped them identifying the source.   To me this implies that the signal was close-ish and a second dish, in a different geographical location and pointed at the same region of sky would have looked past the signal source and not seen it ? It will be interesting to see the report when its finely published. [More]
Comment icon #110 Posted by bison on 10 February, 2021, 20:51
The Centauri Dreams article is about the 1977 Wow Signal, which appeared to originate in the constellation Sagittarius. It was received at Ohio State University.  The use  of a second receiver in radio astronomy, some distance from the main one, is to rule out localized interference. The idea is that if the signal is heard at both, the possibility of it being a genuine signal from space is increased. They call this second receiver a follow-up detection device (FUDD). This authentic little detail even appeared in the movie  Contact, in a passing reference.  I've seen no mention of a FUDD being ... [More]
Comment icon #111 Posted by Hankenhunter on 12 February, 2021, 23:46
Exellent thread. Bison, you've outdone yourself. Well written, and fairly easy to digest. Looking foreward to more data from you. Keep up the great work.
Comment icon #112 Posted by bison on 13 February, 2021, 21:50
Thank you, Hankenhunter, for your gracious assessment of my efforts here.  The recent news of the tentative discovery of a planet in orbit of Alpha Centauri A caught my attention. I am skeptical that a planet will be confirmed to exist in this star system.  The stars Alpha Centauri A and B come within 8.6 astronomical units of each other, at times. This is likely to disrupt either the formation of a planet around either star, or to disarrange the orbit of any that might form. In this latter case, the planet would probably be thrown out of the system entirely, or into one of the two stars.  Sti... [More]
Comment icon #113 Posted by bison on 16 February, 2021, 16:53
A brief interview with Dr. Andrew Siemion, head of the Breakthrough Listen observation project, raises a couple of interesting points. He isn't willing to rule out intelligent life on the planet Proxima B. Dr. Siemion suggests that the high radiation inferred to exist on the planet may act as a spur to evolution. That strikes me as an imaginative suggestion, given the apparent severity of the radiation. Still, it's well known that radiation causes genetic mutations, and such mutations are a prime driver of evolution. Our own, relatively low-radiation environment has made us see higher levels a... [More]
Comment icon #114 Posted by bison on 22 February, 2021, 23:20
A full month, now, since Dr. Peter Worden, executive head of the Breakthrough Initiatives, parent organization of Breakthrough Listen was interviewed. He stated then, that the observation team that detected the now-famous Proxima Centauri signal was about to submit two papers on the discovery for publication.  Ordinarily, this should probably have triggered the release, at that time, of online  preprints of these papers. These do not require the time-consuming process of peer review. They are considered a good way to quickly share new scientific findings, and receive informal expert feedback. ... [More]

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