In mid-May, astronomers began detecting “strange signals” coming from the direction of a small, dim star located 11 light-years from Earth. Researchers first noticed the signals while using the Arecibo Observatory, a huge radio telescope built inside of a Puerto Rican sinkhole.
The radio signals appear to be coming from a red dwarf star named Ross 128. It’s not yet known to have any planets and is about 2,800 times dimmer than the Sun.
According to Abel Mendez, an astrobiologist at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo, the star was observed for 10 minutes. The signal that was picked up was described as being “almost periodic” and though it’s extremely unlikely that intelligent extraterrestrial life is responsible, the possibility isn’t being ruled out just yet.
“The SETI groups are aware of the signals,” Mendez wrote in an email to reporters at Business Insider.
The Arecibo is a great tool for looking at distant galaxies and “pinging” near-Earth asteroids. Mendez believes the signal is probably coming from something humans launched into space.
“The field of view of [Arecibo] is wide enough, so there is the possibility that the signals were caused not by the star but another object in the line of sight,” Méndez said, noting that “some communication satellites transmit in the frequencies we observed.”
But Mendez acknowledges the signals are “very peculiar.” Another potential explanation is a stellar flare. These outbursts of energy from a star’s surface can travel at light-speed, emit powerful radio signals, and even disrupt satellites and communications on Earth.
Arecibo has been actively observing Ross 128 for just under a week now.
“Success will be to find the signal again in the star but not in its surrounding[s]. If we don’t get the signal again then the mystery deepens, ” he said. “We are not sure if we can get to the bottom of this mystery from just the next observations if that was a rare event.”
Most likely, the so-called ‘mystery’ can be blamed on humans.
“The chances are high that they’re terrestrial interference, in fact. That’s really always been the case,” Shostak told Business Insider in an email.
Source: Science Alert