The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
Space: What’s out there? Or, more exactly, who is out there? SETI, or the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, is the name for the collective work underway by researchers and scientists worldwide who are asking exactly that question. Using state-of–the-art telescopes and listening devices, they observe the sky for anything that might give us a sign that there is somebody here besides us. SETI researchers look, listen and hope, waiting for that big breakthrough.
To date there has been little reason to celebrate. Despite the unwavering optimism and devotion of SETI personnel, we have yet to receive the cosmic hail from a far-off star system, inviting to us to our seat in the Galactic Federation Counsel.
Where are they? SETI is listening, but the Wow! Signal has never been repeated.
If it wasn’t for one fascinating incident back in 1977 the whole thing would be far too depressing. On August 15th of that year, Dr. Jerry Ehman was manning the Big Ear Radio Telescope owned by Ohio State University when he spotted a most peculiar anomaly. It appeared to be a radio wave signal, coming our way from outer space, showing all the telltale signs of an interstellar communication attempt. Ehman noted the word “Wow!” beside the signal on the printout, and it became known as the Wow! Signal.
What was it, and where did it come from? The Wow! Signal never occurred again, or if it did it was not detected. Scientists are fairly certain it did not come from our planet, or from the sun, and that it wasn’t interstellar background noise. Though there are several “natural” explanations available, one doesn’t need to stretch their imagination very far to imagine another possibility.
Many scientists and researchers have attempted to recapture the signal through the years, but none have succeeded. The Wow! Signal appeared to be a one-time occurrence. What was the Wow! Signal, and where did it come from? Why hasn’t it happened since? It is one of the great mysteries of SETI history. Could beings from another planet have been attempting communication? Were we expected to send a response? Did we miss our one chance to join the Federation? We may never know.