It was detected in 1977 by a SETI radio telescope and its origin, attributed by many to an extraterrestrial civilization, has been a mystery. Now a hypothesis formulated last year is confirmed.

Did ET call Earth in 1977?

It was the month of august 1977 when a young astronomer who was analyzing as every day the records of the radio telescope Big Ear, in Ohio, detected a abnormal signal, totally different from any other view before.

His surprise was reflected on the margin of the paper, on which he wrote the word “Wow“, An onomatopoeia equivalent to the Spanish” wow “that would later give name to that surprising signal, whose origin has kept the scientific scene in suspense for decades due to the remote possibility that it had been launched by an extraterrestrial civilization.

Now, 40 later, the astronomer Antonio Paris seems to have the answer and, unfortunately for lovers of alien stories, it is much less exotic than they would have wished.

In search of the correct hypothesis

The Wow signal it was composed of the figures and letters 6EQUJ5, which refer to your intensity level, measured first from 0 (intensity 0) to 9 (intensity 9) and from there with letters in alphabetical order, so the A would be level 10 and so on.

This level refers to their relationship with the background noise and in the case of U sign wow would indicate an intensity 30 times above said noise, measured at a frequency of 1,420 Megahertz.

Who or what could have sent a signal like that? The hypotheses related to extraterrestrial civilizations; but, meanwhile, astronomers, including himself Jerry Ehman, who discovered the signal, called for calm, claiming that the area had been re-analyzed and no similar record had been detected.

It seemed more likely that it had been a interference from the telescope itself or a point astronomical phenomenon, but it took 40 years to have a more or less clear answer to the mystery.

Comets are the key

The answer has come from the hand of Antonio Paris, a professor of astronomy from the St. Petersburg College, whose results have been published in the Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences.

These data were based on the hypothesis formulated last year that the Wow signal could have been emitted by a Kite, because whatever produced it moved right after, making it impossible to reproduce the signal, but they were necessary 200 observations, carried out between 2016 and 2017, to be able to check if it was right.

For the date in which the discovery occurred and the region in which it was detected, there were two candidate comets to have the solution: 266P / Christensen Y P/2008 Y2 (Gibbs).

Fortunately, the first of them would visit the same region again on January 25 this year, so Paris arranged everything to check if, indeed, it gave rise to a similar signal, measured in the wavelength adequate. And so it was, the Wow signal was back.

To check that there was no interference He previously made sure that there were no other alternative radio sources in a sufficiently great distance around the study area, so it was clear that the comet had been solely responsible.

In addition, he also analyzed the effect produced by the passage of three other kites randomized, checking that all of them emitted in a similar way at a frequency of 1,420 Megahertz. So does this mean that the comet was 266P / Christensen the one that gave rise to the Wow signal? It can’t be 100% certain, but it does seem much more likely than the sending of signals by an extraterrestrial civilization that just after communicating with Earth decided to hide for posterity.