Scientists announced that the mysterious radio signal, which researchers believed may have come from Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to Earth, was likely a false positive.
Breakthrough Listen Initiative researchers found that the 2020 “intriguing” signal was likely just an artifact Earth-based interference from human technology.
Sofia Sheikh, a researcher for the Listen team, looked through the data set of signals and found that they are spaced at “regular frequency intervals.”
The intervals correspond to multiples frequencies used by oscillators in electronic devices.
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Researchers believe the radio signal that they thought came from Proxima Centauri (pictured below) is a false positive.
The 2020 signal is likely to be an ‘artifact of Earth-based interferences from human technologies’. A not-too-scale representation of how far Proxima B from Earth is compared to Voyager 1 (the farthest man-made object launched in 1977).
The researchers scan the Proxima Centauri starsystem at a wide frequency range, ranging from 700 megahertz through to 4 gigahertz.
After examining hits without motion, four million hits were finally reduced to one million.
After examining hits without motion, the researchers scanned the Proxima Centauri star constellation at a wide frequency range, from 700 megahertz up to 4 gigahertz.
Another filter was applied to the remaining hits as they had to appear from Proxima Centauri.
The Parkes Telescope was pointed at a star by the researchers. After pointing it away, the telescope toggled between the ‘on/off’ pattern multiple times, leaving them with 5,160 possible candidates.
After weeding out more signals, there was one – known as BLC1 – that had ‘characteristics broadly consistent with hypothesized technosignatures,’ but it too is likely just a case of human technology.
Sheikh stated that all of the evidence suggested that the signal is interference from technology human, but they were unable to identify the source.
After weeding out signals, one was left, BLC1 (pictured), which had ‘characteristics broadly compatible with hypothesized technosignatures’, but it is likely that it is a case of human technology.
Proxima Centauri, located 4.2 lightyears from Earth, has two confirmed planets. One is a gas giant (Proximac) and one is a rocky world (Proximab). Artist’s rendering Proxima Centauri. Proxima Centauri orbits Proxima C in approximately 5.2 years. Proxima B orbits in approximately 5.3 years. Proxima Centauri orbits in roughly the same time as Proxima Centauri. Proxima Centauri, on the left was discovered in 2016. It orbits in the “habitable zone” closer to Mercury than the Sun.
‘The original signal found by Shane Smith is not obviously detected when the telescope is pointed away from Proxima Centauri – but given a haystack of millions of signals, the most likely explanation is still that it is a transmission from human technology that happens to be “weird” in just the right way to fool our filters.’
The radio wave signal was first detected by the Australia-based Parkes Telescope at a frequency 980 MHz in April and May 2019.
Last year, members of the Breakthrough Listen Project – a $100 million initiative to find alien life through radio telescopes – ‘carefully investigated’ the mysterious signal that emanated from the star system.
The project, founded by Israeli billionaire Yuri Milner, looks for evidence of extraterrestrial ‘technosignatures’ – radio waves and other evidence of extraterrestrial technology.
Milner started the initiative in 2015 to search for intentional or stray alien signals. It was intended to last a decade.
Proxima Centauri, located 4.2 light years from Earth, has two confirmed planets. One is a Jupiter-like giant gas giant and the other is a rocky world called Proximab in its habitable zone.
The Parkes Telescope in Australia spotted the signal in early 2020. However, unlike previous radio bursts it was not attributed to any Earth-based, near-Earth, human-created source.
After a deep dive into the signal, the researchers discovered that it was likely not from Proxima Centauri.
Andrew Siemion, the science leader of Listen, stated that this candidate was “in the case”. He also said that Listen’s analysis suggests that it’s unlikely that it is from a transmitter at Proxima centauri.
“However this is undoubtedly the most fascinating signal we’ve seen to-date.”
While the news is disappointing, experts may find some hope in the findings. They will continue to tweak and search for signs that life.
Dr. S. Pete Worden, executive director at Breakthrough Initiatives, said that although he was unable to conclusively identify a genuine technosignature he is growing more confident that he has the tools to validate such signatures.
The findings have been published in two papers in the scientific journal Nature Astronomy.