On May 23, 2010, as it was hurtling toward the boundary between our solar system and interstellar space, the Voyager 2 space probe, having traveled 10 billion miles (16 billion kilometers) over 33 years, suffered a strange malfunction.

Or, at least it seemed to be a malfunction at first. Voyager 2’s flight data system, responsible for formatting the probe’s data so that it can be sent back to Earth, started transmitting back data in a language the scientists couldn’t recognize. According to NASA planetary scientist Kevin Baines, it was “just about 10 billion miles away from the Earth and all of the sudden it starts sending data in the language we don’t understand.

"It can be called as an alien language.”

Subsequent diagnostics of the spacecraft showed that the rest of the probe was in proper working order, but a single "flipped bit" in the flight data system’s code showed up, indicating that its programming had been compromised. A flipped bit is when, in computer binary code, a single 0 has been changed to a 1, or vice-versa.

This change in the program’s code, however minor, indicated that someone had tampered with it. NASA briefly entertained the idea that an Earth-bound hacker had done the deed — bit-flipping is a common method hackers use to cause malfunctions in software they’re targeting — but they abandoned this theory, considering that the vast distance between Earth and Voyager 2 made this highly unlikely.

The alternative is that if the flipped bit wasn’t an accident, and wasn’t caused by someone on Earth, then whomever affected Voyager 2’s programming might have done it locally — someone that was 10 billion miles away from Earth at the time. German ufologist Hartwig Hausdorf theorizes that “It seems almost as if someone had reprogrammed or hijacked the probe – thus perhaps we do not yet know the whole truth…”

Since the incident, the probe’s systems were successfully rebooted, and it is continuing its ongoing mission into interstellar space, having passed the that boundary in 2012. But was Voyager 2’s supposed malfunction really an attempt by extraterrestrials to communicate with Earth? We may never know…