A beam of radio waves, which was supposedly received from the direction of the star Proxima Centauri has baffled radio astronomers. Whether any extraterrestrial life has made a communication through such radio wave or it's just a friction of our own technology is the debate of the hour.
Breakthrough Listen is a $100 million project funded by Yuri Milner, a Russian billionaire investor, who has been dedicated on finding alien radio waves for years. This project is working on to decrypt the alleged alien radio wave. So far, it has only been reportedly concluded that the radio wave is a technological wave which can be potentially alien or our own. But nothing yet to be confirmed. After years of research this is believed to be the real 'break through' moment for Breakthrough Listen.
The radio wave has been assessed to be received from Proxima Centauri, the closest known star to the sun. Its distance from Earth is only 4.24 light-years. Proxima Centauri is a part of a triple-star system known as Alpha Centauri. It is known to have two planets out of which, one is slightly bigger in shape and size than our home planet and said to be positioned in the habitable zone of the star having favorable temperature for presence of water even habitation of life.
According to Sofia Sheikh, a graduate student at Pennsylvania State University leading a team of Breakthrough Listen, studying the signal and trying to decipher its origin, stated that the signal appears to only show up in their data when they are looking in the direction of Proxima Centauri. According to the New York Times, Sheikh also mentions that the star's threshold has never been passed by any signal in their previous experiences but there are a lot of caveats. Yet this radio signal has stirred a lot of excitement within her team.
First Detected in 2019
This alleged alien radio signal was first detected in 2019, which was a narrow-band signal with a frequency of 982.02 megahertz as recorded at the Parkes Observatory in Australia. Interestingly any natural event like an exploding star or a geomagnetic storm can broadcast a similar nature of frequencies.
Unfortunately, according to several experts, more often than not these types of signals have turned out to be nothing but RFI — radio frequency interference. So basically, the excitement surrounding this discovery could prove to be nothing more than some radio bursts in the night sky.
Many a time before, SETI has experienced false alarms. For example, reportedly, Frank Drake, then at Cornell and now retired from the University of California, Santa Cruz once pointed a radio telescope in Green Bank, West Virginia, in 1960 at a pair of stars. He thought to use it to hear aliens' radio waves. But what seemed to be an alien signal to him, turned out to be a secret military experiment making it a fallacious apprehension in the history of inception of SETI.
Breakthrough Listen was announced with much fanfare by Milner and Stephen Hawking in 2015.
Excited New Inning
April 29, 2019, marked an excited new innings in the field of study when Breakthrough Listen scientists turned the Parkes radio telescope on Proxima Centauri to monitor the star for violent flares. Such outbursts are very common for theses stars and they have the ability to strip down the atmosphere from a planet and render it uninhabitable.
This surprising alien signal appeared five times April 29 during a series of 30-minute windows in which the SETI telescope was pointed in the direction of Proxima Centauri. Though after that it has never seemed to appear again. The signal never seemed to bear any message. It was always a monotonic tone just registering its existence. It also showed a sign that the source of the signal is not on the surface of Earth but often correlates with a rotating or orbiting object. This can be ascertained when the signal drifts slightly in frequency during the 30-minute intervals but such the drift does not match the motions of any known planets in Proxima Centauri.
Are Signals Coming From Proxima?
Sheikh categorically stated that they are not nearly done yet and a lot of analysis is yet to done to be confident that the signal is not an interference. The Break Through Listen project leader states that they will try to reproduce the results and copy the exact movements of the Parkes telescope again on April 29, 2021. Sheikh expects if the signal is coming from Proxima, then the sender of the signal might feel free to communicate again. But as of now it seems to be some sort of yearly event that happens at the visitor center, that causes an environmental effect that doesn't happen the rest of the year.
There is ample possibility of this Proxima Signal to make its place with the legend like the Ohio State University's 'Wow! Signal'. Even then this is undoubtedly an extremely exciting breakthrough no matter what the final result shows.