The hunt for extraterrestrial life form continues till date but with no success. But in late 1970’s something weird happened. Something that, for a few moments, made the scientists believe that alien life form tried to contact us. Earthlings received a radio signal from deep space for over a minute which, by all means, was unusual and hence the excitement. However, joy did not last long and all hopes simply dwindled away. That signal became popular by the name Wow! Signal. Today, more than 35 years after the signal was received, we still don’t know anything about its source or purpose. Let us learn 22 interesting Wow! Signal facts and find out what really happened and why is has been named so weirdly.
Interesting Wow! Signal Facts: 1-11
1. August 15, 1977, a tantalizing radio signal reaches earth from outer deep space only to be picked up by Big Ear radio observatory (which is now defunct and dismantled).
2. The signal was noticed by Jerry Ehman – a 37-year-old volunteer researcher working at Ohio State University where Big Ear was installed.
3. Back in those days, IBM 1130 mainframe computers were used for analyzing information. The analyzed information was then printed by the computers on perforated papers which were later manually examined. Nothing changed for this signal as well!
4. Once the data was printed, Ehman noticed a vertical sequence which was alpha-numeric.
5. Jerry simply picked up a red pen and circled out the vertical sequence (which was 6EQUJ5). On the left he just wrote the word ‘Wow!’. That’s how the signal received its name and became popular was Wow! Signal.
6. Scientists keep receiving signals but in case of Wow! Signal, things were pretty different. Jerry was working for SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) and Big Ear’s mission was to scan deep space to pick up signals that might be sent out by intelligent life forms in search of other intelligent life forms elsewhere in universe.
7. Radio signals received by scientists usually have a certain amount of intensity that is represented by digits 1 to 9 with 1 representing the intensity of 1.0 and 9 representing the intensity of 9.9, for intensities that are equal to or greater than 10.0 are represented by letters A to U.
8. A stands for intensity between 10.0 and 11.0. B represents intensity between 11.0 and 12.0 and so on. U represents the highest intensity between 30.0 and 31.0. The Wow! Signal had four letters with one of them being U.
9. What was really perplexing was that the Wow! Signal had intensity about 30 times greater than the average ambient noise of deep space.
10. Guiseppe Cocconi and Philip Morrison, the two Cornell physicists in 1960s tried to explain that if at all distant intelligent civilizations tried to make contact, how they would do so. They came up with two different hypothesis:
- They will make use of radio signals because of radio signals can travel very long distances and require less energy.
- The will send signals that other intelligent races can understand even if they speak a completely different language. According to the Cocconi and Morrison, every chemical has a very distinct electromagnetic frequency and since hydrogen universe’s one of the most abundant element with a frequency of 1420 MHz, the alien race trying to make contact will probably send a frequency that is similar to hydrogen’s frequency.
11. What Jerry Ehman found was that not only the signal was significantly louder than the average ambient deep space noise but was also extremely close the frequency of hydrogen, thus fitting the hypothesis of Cocconi and Morrison.