Berkeley SETI Challenges Yesterday’s Reports of a “Strong Extraterrestrial Signal from the Constellation Hercules”




Yesterday, we reported that an international team of astronomers detected signals coming from almost 100 light years away, that appeared to be a strong candidate for extraterrestrial contact, according to a document circulated by Alexander Panov, a theorectical physicist at Lomonosov Moscow State University –“a strong signal in the direction of HD164595, a planet system in the constellation Hercules was detected on May 15, using the RATAN-600 radio telescope (below) in the Russian Republic of Karachay-Cherkessia.”

Today, Eric Korpela, an astronomer with Berkeley SETI, downplayed the hype over this latest signal in a note reported by VOX on the Berkeley SETI website.  “All in all, it’s relatively uninteresting from a SETI standpoint.” Korpela continued:

“I looked over the presentation. I was unimpressed. In one out of 39 scans that passed over star showed a signal at about 4.5 times the mean noise power with a profile somewhat like the beam profile. Of course SETI@home has seen millions of potential signals with similar characteristics, but it takes more than that to make a good candidate. Multiple detections are a minimum criterion.




“Because the receivers used were making broad band measurements, there’s really nothing about this “signal” that would distinguish it from a natural radio transient (stellar flare, active galactic nucleus, microlensing of a background source, etc.) There’s also nothing that could distinguish it from a satellite passing through the telescope field of view. All in all, it’s relatively uninteresting from a SETI standpoint.”

“If the transient claimed originates from beyond the Earth, then, given what we currently know of the parameters of the RATAN search, such events ought to be common. The fact that they are not frequently seen in continuum imaging surveys suggests that the RATAN transient is likely due to instrumental interference or to some other artifact of human technology. While absence of evidence for extraterrestrial intelligence is by no means evidence of absence, our GBT observations did not detect ongoing emission from the direction of HD 164595 between9.1 and 11.6 GHz to a sensitivity of ∼ 10 mJy (10σ).

“Single-epoch transients are by their nature hard to confirm ordeny, illustrating the need for confirming followup, either at a later time, or as part of the observing strategy (whether triggered follow-up of interesting sources, or some form of on–off observing). We intend to re-observe HD 164595 as part of the Breakthrough Listen target list, along with ongoing observations of targets selected using a range of criteria.”

The Berkeley SETI team concluded that they “welcome opportunities for partnership in order to quickly validate and analyze candidate signals, to continue to develop tools and techniques, and to share our excitement with those who, like us, seek to answer the question, “Are we alone?”.


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