Some important updates are at the bottom of this article.
OK folks, nothing to see here.
I talked with my buddy Seth Shostak, who is a Senior SETI astronomer, and he told me that this whole alien signal thing is a big misunderstanding on the part of the KTVU reporter.
Basically, Dan Wertheimer, a radio astronomer who is affiliated with SETI,
detected a pulse from space told the reporter about a signal that had been detected from space. The source is certainly extragalactic, and is most likely some sort of natural event. It’s unclear exactly what kind of event, but there is a long list of things it could be. Aliens phoning us is pretty far down that list. But since Dan does do some SETI work, the reporter just botched things up a bit and misattributed the source. The news article reads oddly, like he took a mishmash of topics and wrote them all up into one article, so this misunderstanding doesn’t surprise me much.
The signal was detected quite some time ago, and had it been alien, believe me you would have heard from the folks at SETI!
So chalk this one up as yet another in a long line of false alarms. Sorry to burst the ET bubble.
UPDATE (18:45 Mountain time):
1) The original news article — shocker — has been pulled off the KTVU site. However, someone should tell KTVU that there exists this thing called Google, and they sometimes cache web pages. I also took a screen capture of the meat of the article and uploaded it to my Flickr page.
2) I just talked to Dan Wertheimer, the astronomer quoted in the article. He told me that the original interview was about sending signals into space (so-called "active SETI") as opposed to just listening for aliens. After the interview, he talked to the reporter about some of the astronomy he does, including looking at what are called radio transients: bursts of radio waves that are seen once and never repeat. These may come from one-off events like colliding neutron stars, exploding stars, and so on. Somehow, in the article the reporter mixed up the observation of the transient signals with detecting a signal from E.T. Worse — if that’s possible — the observations of the transients weren’t from Arecibo, and they weren’t from Wertheimer. It was another astronomer altogether, observing with the giant Parkes radio dish in Australia.
So basically, the news article is utterly wrong about everything it discussed concerning the signal. Wow.
Links to this Post
- Be vewwwwy vewwwwy quiet.... | Cosmic Variance | January 16, 2008
- The Sketec Digest » Blog Archive » The recent SETI Contact is reported FALSE | January 17, 2008
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- Blog » Blog Archive » Bad Astronomy Blog » No alien signal | January 17, 2008
- Loos alarmbijAstroblogs | January 17, 2008
- Universe Today » Has a Signal from ET Really Been Detected? | January 17, 2008
- No SETI Signal | January 17, 2008
- Eh, so maybe ET isn’t trying to call us. Bummer. « Let me be frank! | January 17, 2008
- Burzycki.org - Tech and Interesting Facts | January 17, 2008
- Signal from space story is bogus » Fist of Blog | January 17, 2008
- Vita intelligente nell’universo « strategie evolutive | January 18, 2008
- Jedi Journalism « Cosine Kitty’s Whisker Biscuit Buffet | January 18, 2008
- Universe Today » Astrosphere for January 18, 2007 | January 18, 2008
- [Slashdot] Stories for 2008-01-18 | Kaizenlog | January 19, 2008
- Episode 79 - Mind Shots « Mysterious Universe | January 23, 2008
- Jeffzilla » Blog Archive » No aliens yet for SETI… | January 30, 2008