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Signal from Sapce

Never heard again - We send signals out into space, but we never seem to get a response--except for ONCE, over 30 years ago. When we try to talk to them, we need to remember that the reason for their silence may be the fact that we have tried to shoot them down.

When Jerry Ehman, and saw 6 numbers and letters on the computer printout in front of him on Aug. 18, 1977, he took a red pen, circled the letters and wrote "Wow!" Ehman wrote was volunteering with SETI, the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence.18 years earlier, in 1959, physicists Philip Morrison and Giuseppe Cocconi postulated that the way to discover if ET life exists somewhere in the universe is to listen for alien radio waves, since they are cheap to produce and don't require much energy and travel vast distances across space. They thought that aliens would choose a frequency that would mean something to scientists, so they advised SETI to look for a signal coming in at 1420 MHz.

What Jerry saw on that fateful day was a radio signal at 1420 MHz that spelled out 6EQUJ5. On the NPR website, Robert Krulwich quotes science writer Michael Brooks as saying, "The letters and numbers are, essentially, a measure of the intensity of the electromagnetic signal as it hit the receiver. Low power was recorded with numbers 0 to 9; as power got higher, the computer used letters: 10 was A, 11 was B and so on." So by the time you get to the last letters of the alphabet, you are getting a very powerful signal.

But why send only one signal? If an alien intelligence is trying to send a message somewhere, wouldn't it make sense to send the message multiple times? SETI scientists traced the radio emission to the constellation Sagittarius, but when they looked for into space, there was nothing there: no planet, no star. It happened over 30 years ago, but it's still a mystery.

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Art credit: Dreamstime.com

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