Alien mystery solved: It was just gas

Alien mystery solved: It was just gas
Credit: Joel Tonyan

On August 15, 1977, Dr. Jerry Ehman spotted a mysterious signal while searching for aliens. The radio blast was so strange that he quickly scribbled “Wow” on his printout of the event. 40 years later the “wow” signal has finally been explained – and its comet gas that gets the credit, not extra-terrestrials.

When scientists detected the original anomaly four decades ago they were unable to attribute it to any specific celestial bodies. The signal became a mystery and a lynchpin in the argument for intelligent life in space.

Professor Antonio Paris an astronomer from St. Petersburg College in Florida challenged that assumption in 2016 when he proposed his hypothesis: the radio blast was nothing more than gas from the tails of two comets.

The comets in question weren’t discovered until 2006

Although there’s no data to suggest that the specific comets Paris mentions in his paper are the exact comets that caused the 1977 event the Professor proved that the radio frequency that Dr. Ehman detected was a naturally occurring event from all comets.

He conducted over 200 observations in radio spectrum and comets over a 1 year period. The research revealed that the ‘Wow’ frequency, 1420.25 MHz, was present in the comets he believed to responsible. He then confirmed his data by following three other comets selected randomly for observation, and the signal was present in gas that followed those comets as well.

The research may not pinpoint exactly which comets were to blame – but it explains the “wow” signal wasn’t aliens trying to contact us it was just comet gas.

I was hoping for confirmation of intelligent life – but I’ll settle for knowing that a 40-year-old mystery has been put to rest thanks to the work of a curious astronomer in Florida.

The “Wow!” Signal on The Center for Planetary Science

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