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Team behind ‘alien’ signal admits it likely originated here on Earth

Some astronomers predicted it, and now it’s been basically confirmed: the international team of scientists that reported a possibly alien signal now believes that it is likely originated right here on Earth. Rather than having reached our planet from the HD164595 system, which would have been remarkable, it turns out that the telescope used to make these measurements was picking up electromagnetic noise that has a “most probably terrestrial origin.”

The signal in question came from the 2.7cm wavelength range, and calculations based on the assumed astronomical origin showed that such a signal would have to be incredibly powerful to reach Earth at the observed intensity. It was quickly pointed out that the characteristics of this signal were just right for a possible terrestrial signal — few people broadcast in that area of the spectrum, but the military was one very plausible source. This would also explain why the RATAN-600 telescope says the signal lasted such an abnormally long time for natural emissions like this: it’s not natural at all.

aliensThe official announcement concludes by saying that “…it can be said with confidence that no sought-for signal has been detected yet.” The telescope that saw this signal looks in a wide area of the spectrum and has a higher level of sensitivity than most, which makes in extremely useful but also extremely vulnerable to picking up erroneous signals. The actual person or group that sent this signal out will likely never be known for certain, especially if military reticence comes into play, but as far as aliens are concerned it’s irrelevant. Unless they messaged us from a secret base under the sea, this was humanity being startled at the sight of its own reflection.

In the press release there is a bit of a chiding tone with the “mass media,” implying that the researchers are not to blame for this overblown issue, except perhaps in that they did not properly educate the reporters involved — and actually, that may be right in this case. Scientists will sometimes play up the more sensational or intrinsically fascinating implications of their work, then act quite offended if that becomes embarrassingly prominent in the reportage, but that’s not what seems to have happened here.

The original report of this observation came based on internet propagation of discussion of a presentation made by Italian astronomer Claudio Maccone, who was involved in the RATAN-600 study, and it seems to have essentially expanded by word of mouth since then. Maccone quickly tried to release a cautionary statement through SETI itself, but even as evidence continues to stack up against this finding as a real alien observation, many headlines only get more excited.

One intriguing aspect of all this is the timeline. Maccone and co. only discussed their observations recently, despite the fact that they were first made over a year ago. The team says that it’s too early to draw scientific conclusions about many of the other things spied by RATAN-600 during that same period; I think we can safely say that if the team has had trouble getting the equipment-time necessary to make their analyses, that time will be made available to them very soon.

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