'Mystery' signal from space is solved. It's not aliens

July 21, 2017 by Kerry Sheridan
Astronomers detected strange signals that seemed to be coming from a dwarf star about 11 light-years away, but have now determiend that the signals are interference from a distant geostationary satellite

Astronomers have finally solved the mystery of peculiar signals coming from a nearby star, a story that sparked intense public speculation this week that perhaps, finally, alien life had been found.

It hasn't. The signal, which has been formally named "Weird!" was interference from a distant satellite.

Of course, astronomers said all along that extra-terrestrials were quite far at the bottom of the list of possibilities for the signals detected from Ross 128, a dim star known as a red dwarf some 11 light-years away.

To experts, the true mystery was that they couldn't figure out if the bursts were unusual stellar activity, emissions from other background objects, or interference from satellite communications.

"However, many people were more interested in the signals as potential proof of transmissions from an extraterrestrial intelligent civilization," wrote Abel Mendez, director of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo in a blog post Friday, revealing the true nature of the signals.

After further fueling speculation by summoning the world experts in the hunt for life elsewhere in the universe—The SETI Berkeley Research Center at the University of California—the team issued its conclusion.

"We are now confident about the source of the Weird! Signal," Mendez wrote.

"The best explanation is that the signals are transmissions from one or more geostationary satellites."

The signals only appeared around Ross 128 because it is located "close to the celestial equator where many are placed," Mendez added.

Study of people

He also released the results of an informal survey that he had posted on his website, asking people to weigh in on what they thought the source of the signals was, and whether or not they were scientists well versed in the matter.

"Nearly 800 people participated in this informal survey (including more than 60 astronomers)," he wrote.

The whole group's consensus was that the signals were most likely coming from some story of stellar activity, or some kind of astronomical phenomenon.

Most people discounted the possibility of radio interference or instrumental failures, saying these were least likely. This, Mendez explained, was hardly a scientific approach to the question.

"This is interesting since in the absence of solid information about the signal, most astronomers would think that these were probably the most likely explanation," Mendez wrote.

Furthermore, about one quarter of respondents said "the most likely explanation of the signal was that of a communication with an Extraterrestrial Intelligence (ETI)," he added.

"These results reflect the still high expectations the public maintains on the possibility of contacting ETI."

Still, all was not lost in these last few weeks of speculation and tumult.

"The Planetary Habitability Laboratory of the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo made many new friends from this experience," Mendez said, adding it had been a "great experience of open science."

"The lesson here is that we all need to continue exploring and sharing results openly. Some people prefer to only learn about the successes, but others prefer science in real-time, no matter the end result."

Explore further: 'Peculiar' radio signals emerge from nearby star

Related Stories

Wow! mystery signal from space finally explained

June 7, 2017

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers with the Center of Planetary Science (CPS) has finally solved the mystery of the "Wow!" signal from 1977. It was a comet, they report, one that that was unknown at the time of the signal ...

SETI@home completes a decade of ET search

May 1, 2009

The SETI@home project, which has involved the worldwide public in a search for radio-wave evidence of life outside Earth, marks its 10th anniversary on May 17, 2009.

Recommended for you

34 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

EarthlingToo
Jul 21, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
PowerMax
Jul 21, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
geokstr
3.3 / 5 (3) Jul 21, 2017
Actually, it was just swamp gas being periodically ignited by random discharges from ball lightning caused by a faulty weather balloon. Nothing to see here folks, move along now.
rrwillsj
3 / 5 (2) Jul 21, 2017
Ain't gonna find any aliens more weird than human beings!
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Jul 21, 2017
Oh come on. And Roswell was little dummies floating down on Mylar parachutes.

Give me a break.
Mimath224
5 / 5 (3) Jul 21, 2017
Oh dash it! Got to dismantle my 'alien soap TV program' antenna again and carry on paying my HBO rental.
Osiris1
1 / 5 (1) Jul 21, 2017
I think I smell the rancid odor of coverup
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (3) Jul 21, 2017
To those who posted on the other thread saying it was satellites, kudos. You know who you are. ;)

My guess was something beyond in the same field of view. That's OK, we all gotta be wrong sometimes.
stefanoaz
4.7 / 5 (3) Jul 21, 2017
Sooo - wouldn't the easiest proof of a signal from geosynchronous satellites or terrestrial origin, be to show that the source does not move sidereally? You slew the Green Bank Telescope occasionally over the course of an hour, and the signal either tracks with Ross 128, or it doesn't. What's the difficulty in this?
Jaeherys
not rated yet Jul 22, 2017
Maybe I'm missing something but is there direct evidence that geosynchronous satellites were creating this weird signal or is it just what we think is most likely?
PoppaJ
not rated yet Jul 22, 2017
I am so glad this appeared here.
The title does not represent what the article says

"""Mystery' signal from space is solved. It's not aliens""""

is NOT supported by the what the article states

""We are now confident about the source of the Weird! Signal," Mendez wrote.""
""The best explanation is that the signals are transmissions from one or more geostationary satellites.""

What this tells me is that this scientist is saying. We have no clue what is making the signal. I just want a headline and I am tired of people saying its aliens

"""The signals only appeared around Ross 128 because it is located "close to the celestial equator where many geostationary satellites are placed," Mendez added."""

If this is the case then there would be NO question as to what it was because there are several ways to locate a satellite in Geo orbit. One is to use optical telescopes and another is to use radar.
PoppaJ
5 / 5 (2) Jul 22, 2017
If you really want confirmation than a Geo synchronous orbit satellite would generate the signal from the same location through out the rotational cycle of the day.

And if it was a Geo stationary orbit you would be able to track the signal across the sky!
javjav
5 / 5 (1) Jul 22, 2017
Most likely? How is possible that they are not fully sure? A signal from a geosyncronous satellite does not change its position in the sky, while one from a star will certainly do it in few time. Why don't they simply tell us if the signal source has moved in the sky or not ? Or is it that they didn't detected a second time ? That is the significant data that we were waiting , not their opinions
Mimath224
5 / 5 (1) Jul 22, 2017
@PoppaJ Ha, I suppose other alternatives would be aliens 'bouncing' signals off the satellites or even more 'weird' would be small aliens INSIDE the satellites playing peek-a boo(Hmmm, how would the have got there in the first place). Nope, I'm not canceling my HBO just yet!
jonesdave
5 / 5 (3) Jul 22, 2017
I think I smell the rancid odor of coverup


And why the hell would an organisation, set up to find alien civilisations, cover up the fact that they'd found one? Jesus H. Christ, the conspiracist ideology is strong among some on here.
PoppaJ
5 / 5 (1) Jul 23, 2017
@PoppaJ Ha, I suppose other alternatives would be aliens 'bouncing' signals off the satellites or even more 'weird' would be small aliens INSIDE the satellites playing peek-a boo(Hmmm, how would the have got there in the first place). Nope, I'm not canceling my HBO just yet!


HA! I like it!
rrwillsj
not rated yet Jul 23, 2017
Well jd, consider this possibility...once aliens are conclusively detected, whomsoever is going to endow these researchers, ever again?

The feebs would seize control of the project, for reasons of 'National Security', of course. Cause the contributors to Congressional campaigns would never trust scientists with any authority over science. As that would result in the deconstruction of so many obsolete industries.

Even though the aliens went extinct thousands of years ago. The Funding really does matter, to whomever is cooking the books!

How many diseases are actually cured and eradicated? And how often the headlines proclaim 'Oh, we're so close! Just give us a few million more bucks and we'll finally rid you of your room-clearing halitosis."
Mimath224
not rated yet Jul 24, 2017
Well jd, consider this possibility...once aliens are conclusively detected, whomsoever is going to endow these researchers, ever again?The feebs would seize control of the project, for reasons of 'National Security', of course. Cause the contributors to Congressional campaigns would never trust scientists with any authority over science. As that would result in the deconstruction of so many obsolete industries.
Even though the aliens went extinct thousands of years ago. The Funding really does matter, to whomever is cooking the books!
How many diseases are actually cured and eradicated? And how often the headlines proclaim 'Oh, we're so close! Just give us a few million more bucks and we'll finally rid you of your room-clearing halitosis."

As jonesdave hinted, one has to be careful or no one takes notice because it sounds like conspiracy theory. There are CT's that say the drug industry would suffer if 'cures' were marketed and not 'treatment' (cont)
Mimath224
1 / 5 (1) Jul 24, 2017
(cont) But when I look at the News etc. and see children dying from horrific diseases all over the world I just can't imagine they are be allowed to die.However, I do think it is wrong to advertise say, this and that form of mild headache pills every time one gets a headache. This is especially so where I live and many are 'brainwashed' into thinking they NEED a pill.
However, Alien CT's are not the same because it involves UFO's and the like. There is so much publicity about governments holding back the truth of this and that (I am not suggesting I want to debate this here) that it is easy to get swept along with the 'crowd'. If one really wants to know one has to go out in the 'field' and study the phenomena then make a more informed opinion.
Urgelt
5 / 5 (2) Jul 24, 2017
When will Breitbart tell us the truth about this signal? Obviously - to purveyors of alternative facts - Obama did it to fool us.

Obama is at fault for *everything* we don't like in the world.

If only we could find his secret high-tech liberal research island, where he hides the Area-51 aliens, his chem-trail-spewing invisible jets, and Bigfoot chained up in a cage eating caviar and dumplings. And 3000-year-old dinosaurs, too, probably. Oooh, he makes me so mad! :P
jonesdave
4.5 / 5 (2) Jul 24, 2017
Well jd, consider this possibility...once aliens are conclusively detected, whomsoever is going to endow these researchers, ever again?

The feebs would seize control of the project, for reasons of 'National Security', of course. Cause the contributors to Congressional campaigns would never trust scientists with any authority over science. As that would result in the deconstruction of so many obsolete industries.

Even though the aliens went extinct thousands of years ago. The Funding really does matter, to whomever is cooking the books!

How many diseases are actually cured and eradicated? And how often the headlines proclaim 'Oh, we're so close! Just give us a few million more bucks and we'll finally rid you of your room-clearing halitosis."


Yeo, brilliant. Except that the part of SETI that hunts for ET signals is funded privately by contributions, not by government. Their contributions would likely increase. As would the number of people running SETI@home.
TrollBane
not rated yet Jul 25, 2017
"You slew the Green Bank Telescope occasionally over the course of an hour, and the signal either tracks with Ross 128, or it doesn't. What's the difficulty in this?" For starters, neither you nor I control the Green Bank telescope.
rrwillsj
3 / 5 (2) Jul 26, 2017
I do not believe in aliens or flying saucers or any of that bunk. In my opinion the 'believers' lack a comprehension of how vast 'vast' is. How far 'far' is. This Universe is less than 14 billion years old. Got a few trillion years to go. It depresses me to realize that we are just too soon for an interesting Sci Fic/Sci Fan imagined, habitable and habitated cosmos.

One of my favorite hypothesis of claimed phenomena such as UFOs, angels, demons, ghosts, etc; is:

That what is being experienced is quantum-level leakage of futurist entertainment broadcasts. That leaked across the Earth's Time/Space/Gravity Well to confuse the hell out of the futurist's ancestors. Who are trying to interpret those entangled messages from our descendants.
Captain Stumpy
not rated yet Jul 26, 2017
One of my favorite hypothesis of claimed phenomena such as UFOs, angels, demons, ghosts, etc; is:

That what is being experienced is quantum-level leakage of futurist entertainment broadcasts. That leaked across the Earth's Time/Space/Gravity Well to confuse the hell out of the futurist's ancestors. Who are trying to interpret those entangled messages from our descendants
@rrwillsj
just for the record, i don't believe in aliens or saucers either!

but lets consider their hypothesis just for the moment

...if it's futurists broadcasts, we can simply examine our own cultures and humanity in general to assess the potential message content as the one thing that hasn't changed very much since we became "civilised" is what interests humanity

that means it is far, far, far more likely that it would be the latest gossip about local celebrities and their antics than any hopeful message for us!
LMFAO
Mimath224
5 / 5 (1) Jul 26, 2017
'I do not believe in aliens or flying saucers or any of that bunk...' May I ask what you base your 'belief' upon? Have you done objective investigative on the alleged phenomena and thus formed an opinion or is it 'bunk' because you just don't, well...just don't believe it. If you have done the former then I'd respect such a point of view but if the latter then that would hardly be scientific.
rrwillsj
5 / 5 (1) Jul 27, 2017
Well M2, you make a very good argument for me to justify my 'beliefs'.

Checking...checking...checking some more. Nope, nada, blankety-blanky less than zero! Sorry but along with all the stupourstitiuos drivel out there, I am also an Atheist about the existence of aliens.

The universe is just too fractal. The same tediously boring stars of gases flatulent in every direction. Too to many things to go wrong and fail for the commonality of biologically active worlds, this early in existence of the universe.

Eventually, yes, it could be possible , a few hundred billion years in the future, for biologically active worlds to become a common expectation. Even then, it will only be a fraction of the star systems.

And, I would expect, most of those worlds will be stuck with Archean, a fraction of that Proterozoic. A fraction of that multi-celluar. And anything more complex? An infinitesimal fraction of the above.

And that is my opinion to crore points of Sigma.
Mimath224
5 / 5 (1) Jul 27, 2017
@rrwillsj Perhaps I didn't ask the question properly. There is no question about the rubbish some so called 'ufologists' spout and write and believe me I have criticized a few in my time and have become a target of their verbal excreta. But even science has suffered this way too. However, that's not what I meant when I asked you the question. What I specifically intended was I wondered if you had been out in the 'field', interviewed witnesses (from many walks of life), examined samples (or sent them for analysis) and then made a personal decision. I do not intend anything derogatory in my question(s) and is just a point of interest.
rrwillsj
5 / 5 (1) Jul 28, 2017
M2, I want to assure you that I do not consider your commentary to be derogatory in any way. I do not fear criticism or correction when I am in error.

Feel free to disagree. (hey! it alliterates!)

I do not know your experience questioning people about their claims at witnessing unusual phenomena but my experience has been that of the 'Policeman;s Dilemma'. That quite frankly most people lie, most all the time, for the most stupidest of reasons and total lack of self-awareness.

If you investigate the claims of UFO's, angels, LGM, leprechauns, etc? Take a drug-testing kit with you. There is an invariable lack of sobriety among the witnesses. Honestly, it will frustrate you to discover that the so-called witnesses are just repeating what they heard or read from some other drunk.

Yes, the 'TRUTH' is out there....And, it is truly, tediously, boringly mundane.

To quote Robert Heinlein: "The worst lies a man will tell, are the lies he tells to himself."
Mimath224
not rated yet Jul 28, 2017
@rrwillsj I investigated UFO reports for many years and have to say that it is wrong to classify this phenomena with the others you mention. I found, as many other objective reliable investigators have done, that it is true that more than 95% of them are simply mis-identification of natural phenomena or can be explained in other ways. But there are always a small % that require something more. Vehicle Interference Reports (VIR) are most interesting for those with a scientific background as analysis can be performed on components. Some of these have yielded surprising results.
That aside, I admit that hoaxes were many and sometimes the military didn't adhere to their own ballistic exercise regulations. One time I spent many hours investigating a pilot's night time report only to find out it was a dud missile fired from a mobile launcher. Apart from being downright dangerous it was the was glowing tail fins that were to blame. But I learned a lot about people. Have a nice day.
rrwillsj
5 / 5 (1) Jul 29, 2017
M2, please accept my apology in advance if you feel that I am questioning your veracity.

Cause what I am trying to express is how baffled I am by your last comment.

Please feel free to correct me if I misunderstood what your conclusions were as you conducted field investigations reporting sightings of UFOs.

That you are presuming, when there was no conclusive reason to dismiss a claimed sighting. That lack of definitive identification would be evidence that there was an actual alien spacecraft involved?

Cause if that is your claim? I'm calling it an assumption and you know what that says about the both of us!
Mimath224
not rated yet Jul 30, 2017
@rrwillsj No problem. On my part there never was a presumption. Someone reported and I would conduct an interview (by consent) on what was seen. Then came the hard part (what a detective would call legwork). Were there similar reports from other people, other places etc etc etc. Then a process of elimination, civil or military aviation paths and so on (believe me, I was amazed at the amount of middle aged people that had never noticed the planet Venus before Ha!). The VIR I mentioned were the most interesting where an object was witnessed at close range and the vehicle(s) was/were affected, some permanently. To cut a long story short, either you call the witness of a VIR a liar or give them credit for what they witnessed. If I ever concluded a UFO it would be JUST that, not automatically an AlienFO. The only situation where it would be conclusively a AFO is by identification of the occupants, a close encounter.
This where the difference is between someone seeking the truth...(cont)
Mimath224
not rated yet Jul 30, 2017
(cont)...and someone wanting fame. Those who immediately claim alien origin because of this and that stated by a witness are just out for their own gain (and I've met a few...that's why I'm not rich and they are, Ha!). This paints all 'ufologists' as 'nuts' or the like.
Even in science/math, there has to be a few assumptions but scientists try (and succeed) to back up those assumptions and I suppose SETI and other similar organizations could be seen by some as being that; but taking a negative result (at present) as absence of intelligent life could be just as presumptuous as saying a regular identified signal is the result of AFO civilization. We are all individuals with our own outlook and the universe still has much to tell us..is human/nonhuman life out there is just part of it. Nice 'chatting' to you.
rrwillsj
not rated yet Jul 30, 2017
M2, okay, I can accept that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
However, that would be a lousy way to conduct a jury-trial!

Unless, their Joan of Arc, people seeing visions do not impress me.

It has always been my firm opinion. that the lack of aliens publicly revealing themselves is proof that, if they exist? Staying away from us is proof of a high-level intelligence. Or, at least the universality of common sense.
Mimath224
not rated yet Jul 30, 2017
Ha, 'jury trial'? Not a good analogy because it is we that make up the rules for the society, where morals, social conduct etc are subjective. Not all countries see 'innocent until proven guilty' as valid and so use the reverse. Governments can change the rules but scientists can't change the 'rules' that govern the life and the universe.
I don't equate the UFO phenomenon (or the alien question) with the paranormal but you seem to be doing that in your 'vision' line. If it were so, many(if not all) scientists would distance themselves and programs like SETI would find it difficult to get funding. However, because it involves the possibility of other life, the UFO problem is no longer shunned the way it used to be. The reason is simple;it's about intelligent life and NOT about the supernatural.
The punctuation in your 3rd line 'it has always been...' is a bit ambiguous so I wonder if you could rephrase it...just so that don't get the wrong of the stick, as it were. Thanks.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.