Geek Trivia

The Strongest Candidate For An Alien Radio Transmission Is Referred To As?

The Wow! Signal
The Trekkie Tone
The Deep Space SOS
The E.T. Pulse
The First Pop CD Featured What Band?

Answer: The Wow! Signal

The business of scanning deep into the cosmos looking for signs of intelligent life is, no matter how exciting the premise, practically speaking, a rather dull affair. We’ve been looking for a long time and there hasn’t been much of anything at all to indicate that we’re not alone in the universe (or at least in the fraction of it we can observe at any rate).

With that in mind, we can absolutely understand how in 1977 while working at the University of Ohio’s “Big Ear” radio observatory, astronomer Jerry R. Ehman was shocked and excited to see what appeared to be a sign of an intelligently constructed and transmitted radio signal. While reviewing the printout from the radio array, he was so surprised by the presence of a brief and distinct signal that he circled it and wrote “Wow!” in the margins. To this day, that signal is referred to, appropriately enough, as the “Wow! signal”.

The signal, appearing to originate from around the constellation Sagittarius, lasted for the full 72 seconds Big Ear was trained on that region of space. Alas, despite repeated and numerous attempts between then and now, scientists have never been able to capture a similar signal from the same region of space (or any region for that matter). It’s quite likely that despite being the strongest candidate for an alien radio signal ever detected, that the Wow! signal was in fact simply an anomaly or even an error within the observatory’s hardware or software itself.

Image courtesy Big Ear Radio Observatory and North American AstroPhysical Observatory/Wikimedia.