An international team of scientists from the SETI Institute, the private organization that is searching for signs of extraterrestrial life, revealed that it received mysterious signal spikes last year that could have possibly come from an alien civilization.
The signal, which was originally detected on May 15, 2015, was said to have come from a 6.3-billion-year-old star located on the Hercules constellation, which is 95 light-years away from Earth. It was detected by the RATAN-600 radio telescope in Russia that is operated by the Russian Academy of Science.
The signal was initially kept as a secret, but it was recently revealed by space reporter Paul Gilster after a paper on the signal was quietly circulated by the researchers.
The designation of the star where the signal is said to have come is HD164595, and it is believed to be similar in metallic composition with our solar system's sun. A planet similar but warmer to Neptune has been found in the sun's orbit, but there is the possibility that there are other planets that have not yet been detected.
However, without a follow-up detection of the signal or a confirmation, SETI senior astronomer Seth Shostak said that the true origin of the signal could never be found.
This would make the SETI signal similar to the Wow! signal that was picked up by the Ohio State University's Big Ear radio observatory back in August 1977. The signal, which lasted for 72 seconds, was 30 times stronger than background emissions, and was later determined to have come from the direction of the Sagittarius constellation.
The Wow! signal got its name after volunteer astronomer Jerry Ehman wrote "Wow!" on the printout of the transmission record of the signal.
Another similarity between the SETI signal and the Wow! signal is that they appeared and then disappeared quickly, which would mean that they were not signals received from an orbiting satellite as the radio telescope would pick up such signals for a longer period of time.
However, as Gilster wrote, the detection of the signal does not necessarily mean that an alien civilization is trying to make contact with Earth. All that can be said is that the signal is an interesting one that merits further analysis.
The decision of the researchers to keep the detection of the signal a secret could have backfired in lending authenticity to it. If they right away decided to ask other telescopes to try to detect the signal, the possibility that the signal came from a ground-based, human-made interference would have been ruled out.
Could the SETI signal have come from aliens? The possibility of that still exists. However, we may never know for sure if that is the case, not unless the same signal is detected and, hopefully next time, not be kept a secret.