Thursday, June 23, 2022

Did we really receive an alien signal?

You may have noticed that for a few days on the web there has been a news of a signal picked up by the FAST radio telescope of possible alien origin. 

Let us now try to clarify, starting from the FAST. This is a Chinese radio telescope consisting of a single satellite dish with a diameter of 500 metres, making it the world's largest single antenna telescope. Among the many fields of research in which it operates, FAST scrutinizes the sky in search of signals of extraterrestrial civilization. 

Naturally occurring signals are recognized as they extend over a wide range of frequencies and are repeated over time, while artificial signals are expected to be emitted at specific frequencies (or over a very narrow range). A signal of the latter type that is not repeated over time is classified as a possible signal of extraterrestrial civilization. Of course, these signals must then be analyzed and all possible sources of interference must be excluded. So far all the signals of extraterrestrial origin have turned out to be instrumental errors or interference due to our planet (for example, to atmospheric phenomena). To date, therefore, we have not yet recorded any signs that extraterrestrial life exists.

This brings us back to the FAST telescope, and in particular to a group of recently recorded signals that have not found a natural explanation. However, the data have not yet been analysed to exclude possible sources of terrestrial interference. It is therefore highly likely that once this analysis is performed, the signals will be explained as interference, without it being necessary to invoke extraterrestrial life forms.

Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences. 

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