On the surface, legitimate, scientific research into outer space would seem to be void of any supernaturalism or spirituality. However, as we will see throughout the rest of this series, it is difficult, if not impossible, to separate the two. We tend to see two sides in modern research: cold, hard science on one side and metaphysical, mystical understandings on the other. Rarely do we see represented a truth found somewhere in the middle—truth that is not materialistic and not mystic, but somewhere in between.
Twentieth- and twenty-first-century researchers are not the first to look to the stars and wonder what is truly out there. Those living in the ancient world had the same questions and, in truth, had a lot more time and interest at their disposal. After all, ancient theologians and astronomers were not concerned with getting more likes on Facebook or crafting the perfect response to a mean comment on their YouTube video. No; our forefathers had the focus to ponder these questions more deeply than most today.
What the people of the ancient world lacked, however, was scientific understanding, innovation, and invention. They had more time, yet fewer tools with which to find the answers to their questions. Today, we have more tools at our disposal, yet less interest on a worldwide scale. Fewer people are looking to the stars, fewer questions are asked, and fewer potential discoveries are being made. Sure, we have made great strides and have made many new discoveries in the past one hundred years—far more than thousands of years before. Yet, what about the potential discoveries? What about what we could do if more people were interested? We live on a planet with more than seven billion people, more people at one time than during any other time in history. However, it seems that a smaller percentage of the population is interested in what our predecessors held sacred.
Imagine if we hadn’t separated science from spirituality. Imagine if science actually goes hand in hand with the supernatural and that, if we don’t acknowledge both, we are missing half of the answer. Even from a truly biblical context, imagine if science and theology, both taken in their proper context, can give us a richer view of the cosmos and beyond.
People have a compulsion to know more; they are searching for answers. However, many do not know the right questions to ask in order attain knowledge. In short, many people are looking in the wrong places.
The “Wow!” Signal
Any time a signal from space is detected, whether completely natural or with an element of anomaly to it, the question of whether we are alone in the universe is raised. Researchers and laypeople alike are left wondering if something from “out there” is trying to communicate with us. Is it a direct, intentional contact, or are we just picking up on an ancient ET television show from millions of light years away? The fact is, Earth is listening. We just don’t know who, if anyone, is speaking.
The first major occurrence categorized as a possible communication attempt from alien beings came on August 15, 1977. It was a narrow-band radio signal received by Ohio State University’s Big Ear radio telescope. The signal itself appeared to come from the Sagittarius constellation. Astronomer Jerry R. Ehman discovered the anomalous signal a few days later while reviewing the previously recorded data. The result of the signal was so shocking that he circled the reading on the printout and wrote “Wow!” on the side, which is why it is now called the “Wow! signal.” Strangely enough, the entire signal lasted for the full, seventy-two-second window during which Big Ear was able to observe it.
At first, Ehman suggested the signal could have originated on Earth and reflected off of a piece of space debris back to Big Ear. He later changed his mind, after further research showed it to be an unlikely explanation due to very specific requirements that were unrealistic to a reflection.[i] Also, the 1420MHz signal was within what’s called the “protected spectrum.” This is a bandwidth reserved for astronomical purposes; everything else is forbidden to transmit within this range. Ehman did admit the possibility of the signal originating from the military or someone else on Earth; however, he maintains that the most likely explanation for the signal is an extraterrestrial origin.
In 2017, Antonio Paris proposed that the source of the signal could have been the hydrogen cloud surrounding two comets, 266P/Christensen and 335P/Gibbs. He claimed they were in roughly the right position at the time of the signal. However, a more detailed analysis later showed that the comets were not in the beam at the correct time. Also, known comets are not radio-bright at these frequencies.
At the thirty-fifth anniversary of the Wow! signal in 2012, Arecibo Observatory beamed an attempted response toward the signal’s origin. The transmission contained around ten thousand Twitter messages collected by the National Geographic Channel bearing the hashtag “#ChasingUFOs” in a promotion for one of the channel’s television series. Also included was a series of video vignettes featuring verbal messages from various celebrities.[ii] In an attempt to increase the probability of the signal being recognized by extraterrestrials as an intentional communication from another intelligent life form, Arecibo scientists attached a repeating-sequence header to each message. They also beamed the transmission at roughly twenty times the wattage of the most powerful commercial radio transmitter.
Despite several attempts by Ehman and others, the signal has not been detected again. Also, in spite of many attempts, including theories of the origins being natural or man-made, no one has been able to adequately explain the signal in a way that is consistent with the data. To this day, many scientists, researchers, and ufologists consider the Wow! signal to be the strongest candidate for an alien radio transmission ever detected.
Signals in Stars
As with everything else, we must be mindful of the interpretation we are receiving when discoveries are made. For example, a story went viral in late 2016 about a scientific paper claiming the discovery of ETI signals from space.[iii] Other publications remained a bit more on the fence, admitting that it could be ETI or it could just be that we don’t understand everything about stars.[iv] Because of the limited information concerning this discovery, people were left to interpret the data how they wanted.
What we do know is fairly simple. On October 10, 2016, astronomers Ermanno Borra and Eric Trottier uploaded an early draft of a paper titled “Discovery of Peculiar Periodic Spectral Modulations in a Small Fraction of Solar-type Stars” to arXiv.org.[v] The paper was officially published in the November 2016 issue of the scientific journal Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. In the paper, the two astronomers used data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) to analyze 2.5 million stars. Of those, they found that 234 stars were producing a strange signal. In the paper, the possibility of the signal being of ETI origin, based on a previous prediction by Borra, was explored, but the astronomers also admitted this to be speculative.
Borra described the speculative idea in a 2012 paper.[vi] He suggests that “technology now available on Earth could be used to send signals that have the required energy to be detected at a target located 1000 light years away.” This means, according to this idea, that ETI could signal its existence to others by sending light pulses with time separations of to seconds. These pulses could be detected in the spectra. Borra and Trottier decided to search a database of spectral signal from 2.5 million stars and found 234 fitting the prediction. After showing that instrumental problems and other usual explanations could not explain the findings, Borra and Trottier suggested these signals could be caused by light pulses generated by ETI in order to alert us to their existence. They found the detected signals had exactly the space of what an ETI signal was predicted to have in the previous paper. While stating they are in agreement with this prediction, Borra and Trottier also admitted it is a hypothesis needing confirmation with further work. In other words, it is strange, and could be ETI, but the ETI hypothesis cannot be confirmed with this data. More work needs to be done.
The Rosetta Comet Signal
Fairly recently, European Space Agency scientists were able to detect a sound produced by Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (or Comet 67P/C-G for short) using the Rosetta spacecraft. The sound is theorized to be produced by “oscillations in the magnetic field in the comet’s environment.”[vii] The magnetometer experiment of the Rosetta spacecraft first recorded the sound when it was flying within sixty-two miles of the comet in August of 2014. Comet 67P/C-G is emitting this “song” well below the frequency a human can actually hear. The frequency of the sound was increased by a factor of approximately ten thousand in order to create an audible rendering of the sound.
Scientists are still unsure exactly how the sound is created from the comet. ESA scientists believe it might originate from neutral particles of the comet being sloughed off into space and ionized. However, researchers are still unsure of how the physics of the oscillations actually work. Comet 67P/C-G is something completely new and different.
Due to the strangeness of the sound emanating from this comet, some have been led to wonder if the signal is artificial rather than natural. Others, however, believe it is completely natural, albeit a bit different than previously observed comets. Is it possible that this is an example of a communication attempt from otherworldly beings?
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In order to explore this question further, SkyWatch TV documentary filmmaker Josh Peck contacted J. R. Watts, a former government investigator, intelligence analyst, and code-breaker, to ask his thoughts of the strange sound. When he listened to the sound sample I emailed to him, I wanted to know if his highly trained ears could pick up anything that might be artificial. Or did it sound completely natural? If he had received this while he was working as a code-breaker for the government, was there anything in the sound that would have led him to believe there was a hidden message? Here is what Mr. Watts wrote back:
I’ve been listening to this sound bite you emailed me, sounds like a signal that was relayed through an echo chamber. There is a repetitive cadence throughout that fades in and out and then comes up again, sometimes with a slight difference in pitch and tone. These days, what with acoustic devices, amps and sound synthesizers available to anyone, it is possible this audio tape was fabricated by someone.
It’s also possible that is a sound of paranormal origin, a mystery that may well remain unsolved if no new data about it is brought forth by anyone. It has to have an origin no matter what. But of what origin is the question and in this case, I don’t think anyone will ever solve it.
If you can get an audio engineer to record a similar sound on tape, then this might be a hint that someone just decided to record strange sounds on tape to create a mystery. If this is the case, then this person has a similar mindset as those who promote the endless searches for Bigfoot.
I’m not an electrical engineer but there was a time when I worked in TV production for 5 years before becoming an investigator and so I had experience working on audio boards. Technically speaking, this sound could well have been artificially produced by a competent audio engineer or someone with enough know-how who had the knowledge to edit sounds together and incorporate additional sound effects.
That said; on the other hand, if you go on youtube and listen to the sounds captured by the Cassini Space Probe as it neared Saturn, I believe, the sounds it recorded and then relayed back to Earth allowed us to hear sounds in space. Sound is not unique to Earth, so there has to be sound in space as well.
Whether or not there is a hidden signal or embedded message in this sound bite might be answered if you slow it down or speed it up but even then if there is a code present on the tape, if you don’t know its lingo, you would never decipher it because you have nothing to compare it to, unless you have other tapes with similar sounds and were able to decode some of it. Hard to say one way or the other.
Good luck to you!
We Must Be Careful
More often than not, when a strange signal is detected, the headlines include something about aliens—mainly because the word “aliens” is exciting and attracts more views for any article. It is a marketing tactic. The problem, however, is that this leaves the reader with the idea of aliens contacting Earth without a fair and balanced opposition. Typically, later articles reporting that the signal in question was discovered to be of natural or human origins, don’t receive the same level of attention the first ones.
For example, on August 30, 2016, CNN ran a story online with the headline “Hear me now? ‘Strong signal’ from sun-like star sparks alien speculation.”[viii] The next day, August 31, 2016, CNN ran another story: “Signal from sun-like star likely of Earthling variety.”[ix] It does not take a lot of guesswork to figure out which article drew the most views. While the first article explained that a mysterious signal had been detected and asserted that its source might be alien, the second article explained that the signal was of human origin and had been thought otherworldly by mistake.
Even when the writers of a website try to post more honest headlines, this type of sensationalism still occurs. On July 18, 2017, Sci-News published an article with the headline, “Arecibo Observatory’s Radio Telescope Detects Strange Signal from Nearby Star Ross 128.”[x] The article was shared dozens of times on Facebook. A few days later, on July 23, the site published another article with the headline “‘Weird!’ Signal from Ross 128 Isn’t from Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Astronomers Say.”[xi] Despite having a more key-word-rich headline, this article only received twenty-two shares on Facebook. This time, the second article had the more sensational and excitingtitle at first glance, yet in this specific case, it also contained a truth dispelling the fantasy of extraterrestrial communication. The first article, even with a more honest and (pardon the pun) down-to-earth headline, received more shares (and presumably more views) than the second, because it promoted the possibility of something otherworldly while the second one did not. Fantasy trumps fact.
This type of thing actually happens quite often. The possibility of the fantastic (such as extraterrestrial communications), to many, is far more interesting and preferable over the realistic truth backed up by evidence. This is why, typically, the first article with a sensational headline will be viewed more times than the second article explaining the first one to be faulty. This is also why, especially with a possible disclosure-type event or other major announcement, it is important to recognize who is providing the information, to know the available evidence, and to have the ability to separate observation from interpretation.
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[i] Ehman, Jerry R. (February 3, 1998). “The Big Ear Wow! Signal. What We Know and Don’t Know About It After 20 Years” www.bigear.org/wow20th.htm.
[ii] “Humanity Responds to ‘Alien’ Wow Signal, 35 Years Later.” www.space.com/17151-alien-wow-signal-response.html.