This post has been updated.
Russian scientists using the RATAN-600 radio telescope in Zelenchukskaya just announced the detection of an unusual radio signal. It’s probably not caused by aliens, but also, it’s possibly caused by aliens.
The RATAN-600 received the signal about a year and a half ago, but the reports are just being circulated now. The source of the “strong signal in the direction of HD164595,” according to Paul Gilster at the website Centauri Dreams, is a star approximately 94 light-years from Earth. While the nature of the signal is no guarantee that it was generated by aliens, it’s legitimate enough to keep intrigued scientists going forward. In theory, the signal could have originated from an isotopic beacon and be indicative of a Kardashev Type II alien civilization — life capable of harnessing the energy of its star. A Kardashev Type I civilization, another possibility we can’t rule out based on the data from the signal, would mean a civilization that had developed means of both harnessing and storing energy from nearby stars.
The idea of alien life gets everyone excited, so it’s critical to remember when we talk about the possibility of finding aliens, we’re usually referring to data that simply hasn’t ruled it out yet, rather than anything that explicitly indicates life on other worlds.
Still, everyone will be keeping an eye on HD164595 going forward. In fact, Douglas Vakoch, a SETI researcher and president of METI International, tells Inverse the institute will begin diverting observational time for its Panama’s Boquete Optical Observatory to further study the star this week. Vakoch says the star is probably the most exciting object in SETI research right now.
The radio signal and the ensuring follow-up investigations will be discussed at the 67th International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico on September 27th. At the very least, hopefully the star will get a better name than HD164595.
Photos via Bursov et al, Getty Images / Handout