Updated: 20th November 2017

Hear me now? ‘Strong signal’ from sun-like star sparks alien speculation

(CNN)Astronomers engaged in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) are training their instruments on a star around 94 light years from Earth after a very strong signal was detected by a Russian telescope.

An international team of researchers is now examining the radio signal and its star, HD 164595 — described in a paper by Italian astronomer Claudio Maccone and others as a “strong candidate for SETI” — in the hopes of determining its origin.
    “The signal from HD 164595 is intriguing, because it comes from the vicinity of a sun-like star, and if it’s artificial, its strength is great enough that it was clearly made by a civilization with capabilities beyond those of humankind,” astronomer Douglas Vakoch, president of METI International, which searches for life beyond Earth,tells CNN.
    Whenever a strong signal is detected, “it’s a good possibility for some nearby civilization to be detected,” Maccone tells CNN.
    But experts say it is highly unlikely to be a message from alien beings.
    “Without corroboration from an independent observatory, a putative signal from extraterrestrials doesn’t have a lot of credibility,” Vakoch says.

    Advanced civilization?

    Paul Gilster of the Tau Zero Foundation, which conducts interstellar research, said that if the signal was artificial, its strength suggested it would have to come from a civilization more advanced than our own.
    Such a civilization would likely be Type II on the Kardashev scale, an attempt by the Soviet astronomer of the same name to categorize various technological stages of civilizations.
    “The Kardashev scale is based basically on the energy that that civilization might be able to funnel for its own use,” says Maccone.
    At present, our own species is somewhere near Type I on the scale, whereby a civilization is able to harness all the energy available to it on its own planet, including solar, wind, earthquakes, and other fuels.

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    So is it aliens?

    Probably not, says Vakoch, pointing to potential technological interference oramplification through gravitational lensing, where a signal behind a planet or other large object appears to be far stronger than it actually is,as potential causes.
    Maccone says gravitational lensing is “an important possibility that should be taken into account for future SETI research.”
    “We should learn how to discriminate that against real extraterrestrial signals,” he added.
    Vakoch says “the greatest limitation of the May 2015 signal is that it hasn’t been replicated. Before we can give any credence to a signal as coming from extraterrestrials, we need to see it repeatedly to make sure it wasn’t just a transient phenomenon.”
    “It deserves at least a few hours of observing time by SETI researchers at other locations to make sure we don’t miss an opportunity to make first contact, however remote.”
    If it does prove to be transient and unexplained, HD 164595 could become another “Wow! signal,” frustratingly tantalizing and mysterious in equal measures.
    Shostak writes that “of course (it’s) possible” the signal could be from an extraterrestrial civilization, but without confirmation, “we can only say that it’s ‘interesting’.”

    Read more: http://edition.cnn.com/

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