Was it Earth's first known contact with aliens?
It was a busy time for SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) last week as news broke that astronomers using the Russian RATAN-600 radio telescope detected an unusual signal originating from HD 164595, a 6.3-billion-old sunlike star in the Hercules constellation, 95 light years away from Earth.
Media outlets ran away with the discovery and spun it like it was something out of a Jodie Foster tearjerking E.T. whodunit from the nineties.
The signal was first detected on May 15 of last year but was reportedly kept secret until space writer Paul Gilster broke the news last week with his post on his website Centauri Dreams.
Gilster wrote that the signal had a wavelength of 2.7 cm and an estimated amplitude of 750 mJy. He explained that if the signal is an intentional transmission beacon, the power of this signal can only come from an advanced alien civilization.
He also added that Italian SETI researcher Claudio Maccone and Russia's Nikolai Bursov are part of the team responsible for the detection and in their presentation, they claim that a "permanent monitoring of this target is needed."
As per usual in the internet echo chamber, with just a few suggestive ideas, speculation about advanced alien lifeforms was all the rage in social media sites. Although SETI scientists themselves dismissed the signal as not at all interesting, media outlets spun it up like it's the second coming.
Even follow-up investigations have not revealed anything. As far as SETI is concerned, it is an overblown one-shot. A false signal, if you will, and it may not even be extraterrestrial at all.
In an official statement released by the Special Astrophysical Observatory of the Russian Academy of Sciences (SAO RAS), they concluded that it is indeed earthbound and plainly not Herculean.
They stated that "subsequent processing and analysis of the signal revealed its most probable terrestrial origin." While the SAO RAS did not confirm the signal's exact origin, Russian news agencies suggest that it actually came from a Soviet military satellite.
Oh, bummer, so that means E.T. is not phoning us... yet.
So much for Centauri Dreams, huh?