Space

Parkes Telescope Detects Radio Signal from Proxima Centauri

A radio signal detected by the Parkes Telescope in 2019 has astronomers wondering if it could indicate intelligent life in nearby Proxima Centauri, only 4.2 light-years away from Earth.

The signal was originally detected in early 2019 by the Parkes Radio Telescope in Australia, during a project involving the monitoring of stellar flares at Proxima Centauri. While it didn’t initially garner major attention, the data was marked for further investigation at a later date.

It wasn’t until October of this year that the mystery signal — picked up at 980.002 megahertz — was finally noticed by Berkeley SETI program intern Shane Smith.

That’s when researchers with the Breakthrough Listen project, based at the Berkeley SETI Research Center, took over. The project, founded in 2015, is dedicated to the search for potential alien signals, or technosignatures.

According to the researchers, this new signal rivals the infamous 1977 Wow! signal. It’s even been given its own name: Breakthrough Listen Candidate 1, or BLC1.

For now, it’s unclear whether or not the signal could have a terrestrial or human cause. However, according to Scientific American, it passed many of Breakthrough Listen’s criteria for an extraterrestrial source. Even so, the researchers are approaching BLC1 with a rigorous scientific skepticism; they assume that, after thorough investigation, it will likely prove to be the result of Earth-based human interference or a natural phenomenon. But at the moment, anything is on the table.

C’est la vie extraterrestre, I guess. A paper featuring the Breakthrough Listen project’s investigation of the radio signal will be published early next year.

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