Strange radio signals have been spotted coming from the vicinity of a nearby star—but don’t get your hopes up that aliens are responsible.
On May 12, the 1,000-foot-wide (305 meters) Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico detected “some very peculiar signals” apparently emanating from Ross 128, a red dwarf star that lies just 11 light-years from Earth.
“The signals consisted of broadband quasi-periodic nonpolarized pulses with very strong dispersion-like features,” Abel Mendez, director of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico, wrote in a statement late last week. [13 Ways to Hunt Intelligent Aliens]
“We believe that the signals are not local radio frequency interferences (RFI) since they are unique to Ross 128, and observations of other stars immediately before and after did not show anything similar,” he added.
The three leading explanations for the signals, Mendez wrote, are solar flare-like emissions from Ross 128, emissions from some other object in the same field of view and a burst of some sort from a satellite orbiting high above Earth. Each of these hypotheses has its issues, he said.
For example, solar flares of the type that could be responsible generally occur at lower frequencies. In addition, Mendez wrote, there aren’t a lot of other objects in the Ross 128 field of view, “and we have never seen satellites emit bursts like that.”
But if you’re getting the urge to invoke E.T., temper it: “In case you are wondering, the recurrent aliens hypothesis is at the bottom of many other better explanations,” Mendez wrote.