Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

B The Wow! signal

  1. Feb 16, 2017 #1
    What is the prevailing opinion among astronomers about the most plausible explanation for the Wow! signal?

    I was just reading that Jerry Ehman, the man who discovered the anomaly in 1977, believes the most likely explanation is a signal from an extraterrestrial civilization.

    "In a 1997 paper, Ehman resists "drawing vast conclusions from half-vast data"—acknowledging the possibility that the source may have been military or otherwise a product of Earth-bound humans. However, Ehman thinks that the most likely explanation for the signal is from an extraterrestrial civilization."
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 16, 2017 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member
    2017 Award

    Could you provide some links to your information please?
  4. Feb 16, 2017 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    2017 Award

    Google is your friend (I'm quoting Chet)
  5. Feb 16, 2017 #4


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member
    2017 Award

    Yes but a simple link or two from the OP would save everyone else from having to do that.
  6. Feb 16, 2017 #5
    Sorry, I thought this incident was more widely known. I updated the original post to include a link.
  7. Feb 16, 2017 #6

    This site is synonyms with SETI, I would trust their judgment.
    "But for all the dedication and technical brilliance of the searchers, no definitive artificial message has been found. Some tantalizing candidates like the famous WOW signal detected by a radio telescope at Ohio State University, have been heard only once -- not good enough for unambiguous detection."
  8. Feb 16, 2017 #7


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member
    2017 Award

    it is VERY widely known

    we just wanted to know where YOU were sourcing your info so that we could comment on its credibility :smile:

  9. Feb 17, 2017 #8
    Thanks for that information. Still, I don't feel like the question of the most plausible explanation has been answered. I realize there's not enough evidence to prove the signal came from aliens. But what do the majority of astronomers believe is the most reasonable explanation for it?
  10. Feb 17, 2017 #9
    Is there any reason to rule out a Soviet spy plane or satellite?
  11. Feb 17, 2017 #10
    This article touches upon that briefly,
    Then this, (I believe the author is familiar with "wow")
    Overall, I don't find any serious scientist stating "this is what the wow signal is" (although there's no shortage of crackpottery on the "WhackoWideWeb").
    It is mentioned in serious circles as "The most likely ET signal of all time" but nobody sees definitive proof, In this case ambiguity reigns and the jury will probably never reach a verdict. There are plenty of explanations available, its up to the individual to decide whats acceptable.
  12. Feb 17, 2017 #11
    Why would "most astronomers" be good persons to judge? SETI is a highly specialized field, not just "astronomy"; of course it is quite speculative, as well; even so, experts within it would be better qualified to judge, wouldn't you agree? So along these lines, the Wikipedia article you cite, limited as it is, suggests there is tremendous uncertainty & a good deal of doubt about the "Wow! signal."

    More interesting to me is the debate, of long standing & not close to resolution, over what conditions would be required for us to hear radio from another civilization - from that same article, see Fermi paradox.
  13. Feb 18, 2017 #12


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    The problem with radio signals is they are far too feeble to be useful across interstellar distances. I doubt the WOW signal was anything more than a stray terrestrial signal.
  14. Feb 18, 2017 #13
    The man behind the curtain at the Great and Powerful Wikipedia agrees with you - from the link I gave above:
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2017
  15. Feb 18, 2017 #14
    Supposedly, this past January, the fellow behind the comet noise hypothesis for the "Wow! signal" was hoping to gather further data to rule his idea further in or out - does anyone know if this happened? I did a quick Google but the only hits were for April 2016 when his theory got publicity, e.g.:


    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
  16. Feb 18, 2017 #15
    I have it on good authority that this is a reliable link. :smile:

    Harp: The "Wow!" signal was almost certainly radio frequency interference. The signal failed to pass even the simplest tests to exclude interfering signals from that observation campaign. From another perspective, at the Allen Telescope Array (ATA), we see dozens of signals comparable to "Wow!" every day. This is simply because we have much more computational power than they did back when "Wow!" was seen. If the "Wow!" signal were seen today, it would be a yawn. However, there is a silver lining to the "Wow!" signal. "Wow!" has inspired a lot of public interest in SETI. Despite being a not very scientific result, public awareness of "Wow"! has been beneficial to SETI. So I generally think of "Wow!" as being a good thing from that perspective.

    Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2015-07-aliens-day-nowseti-scientists-discuss.html#jCp
  17. Jun 7, 2017 #16
  18. Jun 7, 2017 #17
    I would have preferred it was of an extraterrestrial origin myself. Oh what scientific wonders and jubilation among planetary and astronomical scientists if it was.
  19. Jun 7, 2017 #18


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    The scientific method places exceptional value on repeatability and reproducibility of results. The WOW signal fails that test by multiple standard deviations. Many among us would be thrilled by confirmation we are not alone, but, such a confirmation should be judged by its statistical, not emotional significance.
  20. Jun 8, 2017 #19
  21. Jun 8, 2017 #20

    stefan r

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Why the assumption that ET would try to communicate using Hydrogen wavelengths? Using the most common element seems like the worst choice. Would be like using a sky blue signal flag.
  22. Jun 9, 2017 #21
    The assumption is that if someone wanted to communicate across species, the only common language is mathematics and physics. There are only so many fundamental constants. The hydrogen line is also around the right frequency to be able to penetrate clouds of gas and dust.

    Your analogy is also incorrect. The part about using a sky blue beacon in front of the sky blue sky is correct, but you forgot abut intensity. Imagine that sky blue flag shined 32 times as brightly as the sky.
  23. Jun 17, 2017 #22
  24. Jun 17, 2017 #23
    It is just the place on the spectrum with less noise so a signal at those wavelengths will be heard at a much longer distance with the same power and antennae.
  25. Oct 2, 2017 #24


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted