The Wow! Signal


"Cypress you motherfucking whore!"
The Wow! signal was a strong narrowband radio signal detected on August 15, 1977, by Ohio State University's Big Ear radio telescope in the United States, then used to support the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. The signal appeared to come from the direction of the constellation Sagittarius and bore the expected hallmarks of extraterrestrial origin.

The entire signal sequence lasted for the full 72-second window during which Big Ear was able to observe it, but has not been detected since, despite several subsequent attempts by Ehman and others. Many hypotheses have been advanced on the origin of the emission, including natural and human-made sources, but none of them adequately explain the signal.

Although the Wow! signal had no detectable modulation—a technique used to transmit information over radio waves—it remains the strongest candidate for an extraterrestrial radio transmission ever detected.

When astronomers tried to follow up, the signal was gone. It happened just this one time, and then not anything else like it, not from this region, or any other region in the the sky.!_signal
Since the detection of the Wow! signal, there have been various attempts to search for similar signals or other potential signs of extraterrestrial intelligence. However, no signals of similar strength or characteristics have been detected to date.

Numerous ongoing SETI projects continue to search for potential extraterrestrial signals, using both radio telescopes and other detection methods. These projects include the SETI Institute's Allen Telescope Array, Breakthrough Listen, and the Green Bank Observatory's Breakthrough Listen Initiative, among others. These efforts involve scanning the sky for signals that could indicate intelligent origin, but as of now, no signals comparable to the Wow! signal have been reported.

It's important to note that the search for extraterrestrial intelligence is a challenging task. The universe is vast, and detecting a signal from a distant civilization is a complex and rare occurrence. While the Wow! signal remains an intriguing and unexplained event, its uniqueness serves to highlight the difficulty of finding and confirming potential signals of extraterrestrial origin.
The signal came in at 1520 MHz, the hydrogen water hole, which is where most SETI researchers expect artificial interstellar radio signals to originate.

On Aug. 18, 1977, Ehman was scanning readouts from three days earlier when he came across something radically different. Instead of the usual 1s and 2s and occasional 4s, there was a stream of both letters and numbers signaling a radio transmission 30 times louder than the background buzz of deep space [source: Krulwich]. Grabbing a red pen — he was a teacher, after all — Ehman circled the mysterious sequence "6EQUJ5" and excitedly scribbled next to it the single word "Wow!"

More than 35 years later, the so-called "Wow!" signal remains the "closest encounter" mankind has ever had with what may or may not be an alien species. The powerful blast of radio waves lasted just 72 seconds, but many astronomers and amateur Ufologists believe the unique characteristics of the signal point to a celestial origin. In the decades since that original Wow! moment, no one has been able to replicate the signal or identify its definitive source, cosmic or Earthly.