16:37 GMT19 October 2020
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    A powerful signal from space recorded on a radio telescope in 1977 seems to have at last been identified, putting to rest a 40-year astronomical mystery.

    Recorded in 1977, an anomalously powerful 72-second radio signal that burst from the direction of the constellation Sagittarius has puzzled astronomers until now, according to new information set to be published by Antonio Paris, a professor with St. Petersburg College, Florida.

    Waltzing brown dwarves Luhman 16AB
    © Photo : ESA/Hubble & NASA, L. Bedin et al

    A very strong signal picked up on August 15, 1977, by Ohio State University's "Big Ear" Radio Observatory. It was so strong, and so strange, that the astronomer on duty at the time wrote "Wow!" in red ink on the printout next to the numbered data.

    A subsequent search of the sky in the direction from which the Wow! signal originated revealed no known celestial object, and astronomers, astrophysicists, the tabloid press, and everyone in between had a field day theorizing, hypothesizing and just plain guessing as to what the message meant.

    Now, after 40 years, a Florida-based teacher believes he has the correct answer, and the peer-reviewed Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences has agreed, accepting his findings for publication.

    By carefully studying astronomical records of the famous 1,420 MHz radio signal, Paris theorized that the burst was the result of the Earth passing through a cloud of hydrogen molecules left behind by one of two comets transiting our planet's orbit at the time.

    "I have always been fascinated with astronomy," Paris told the Sunday Times. "After 40 years, the Wow signal was a cold case I wanted to reopen."

    In examining the records of celestial events during that period, Paris noticed that the comets, unrecorded in 1977, had passed by the Earth on August 15 of that year, the precise day the "Wow!" signal occurred. This couldn't be just coincidence, Paris thought, and after waiting for the comets to reappear, he pointed a radio telescope toward them and recorded the exact same result.

    It was his own Wow! Moment, and he now can claim to have solved one of the more intriguing astronomical mysteries of the past 50 years.

    In the final analysis, according to Paris, the notorious Wow! signal was "a natural phenomenon from a solar system body" and sadly, not aliens, according to Newser.

    Nonetheless, Paris added, "There's still a bit inside of me that hopes it was aliens."


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    hydrogen, space aliens, comet, astronomers, Comet, astronomy, space exploration, Ohio State University, Florida, Ohio, Earth
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