Every SETI investigation so far has ended in disappointment. The latest one that took the world by storm this week seems to winding down with a similar fate: Russian astronomers who first stumbled on the strange radio signal emanating from the star HD164595 are now saying the signal was caused by “terrestrial interference.”
The signal was first picked up by scientists in May 2015 using the RATAN-600 radio telescope. However, it only recently came into the spotlight and ended causing a flurry of excitement among the public and research community alike, spurring SETI investigators at the SETI Institute and at METI International begin their own follow-up investigations to see if they could find the signal once again.
The Russian Academy of Sciences announced in a statement Wednesday, “subsequent processing and analysis of the signal revealed its most probable terrestrial origin.” The statement ended on a depressing note: “It can be said with confidence that no sought-for signal has been detected yet.”
Seth Shostak, the senior researcher at the SETI Institute, had already expressed quite a bit of skepticism that his and his colleagues’ investigation using the Allen Telescope Array would bear fruit. “We spent two nights looking for [the signal],” he said in a video posted to YouTube. “We couldn’t find it.”
Shostak acknowledged the RAS’s conclusions and also added that a military satellite was thought to be the likely culprit.
However emphasized that “we still don’t know” what exactly caused the signal, and that another explanation may indeed turn out to be the case.
“You know you can’t always be cynical,” he said. “If a signal looks promising, we are going to check it out.”