Scientists investigate a strange emission of waves that may have reached Earth from a planet outside the Solar System and assess whether it could be considered an indication of extraterrestrial life.
Experts say there are indications that the signal would have come from Proxima Centauri b, the exoplanet that orbits the star Proxima Centauri, the closest to the Sun, in a region considered potentially habitable.
Astronomers believe that Proxima Centauri b, a planet 4.2 light-years from Earth, has a rocky surface and liquid water sources. Some measurements also indicate that it could have an atmosphere, as it does on Earth.
NASA (American space agency) classifies Proxima Centauri b, discovered in 2016, as an exoplanet slightly larger than Earth (with 27% more mass).
Intrigating Sign Arrived near Sun
The waves were detected in 2019 by a giant radio telescope installed in Australia, and since then, different groups of scientists have tried to understand the discovery.
“It was a signal that appeared once and did not repeat itself. It had a frequency different from that emitted by terrestrial devices such as satellites and spaceships”, explains to BBC Mundo (service in Spanish of the BBC) the researcher Mar Gómez, the doctor in Sciences Physics from the Complutense University of Madrid.
Waves Detection : Intrigating Sign Arrived near Sun
Parkes Observatory is located in the State of New South Wales, Australia. It is called “O Prato” because of the radio telescope operating there for 50 years. It was he who detected the strange signal.
It has already been used in several space missions and shares information with different organizations, such as NASA.
“We are talking about an essential telescope. We have to remember that it was used to receive images of the Apollo 12 landing on the Moon,” comments Gómez.
The researcher adds that the observatory also collaborates with other missions such as the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) projects.
The strange emission of waves caught the attention of scientists. “As there is no sound in space, the only way we have to communicate is radio waves. We can send them to outer space. Perhaps on another planet or star system, there is a life form that tries to sound that way, “he says.
Breakthrough Listen will publish a report on radio signals detected in Australia in the coming months. Gómez indicates that so far, there is not much information in the scientific community about the research results.
Scientists Advocating Search for Extraterrestrial Life
BBC science journalist Pallab Ghosh reported in February 2020 that this was one of the meetings conducted by American Association for the Advancement of Science in Seattle.
At that time, Anthony Beasley, director of the US National Radio Astronomy Observatory, said there should be more support from the US government for this research field, rejected for decades by funders of government projects.
NASA also has its projects on this and went beyond astronomical observation. In July, the agency launched the explorer robot Perseverance mission to search for traces of life on Mars. At that time, the first signal from Earth was sent to contact possible civilizations in space.
Gómez explains that all these projects are relevant because, although only bacteria or microbes are found on other planets, it can be one of the most important scientific news in history. “This is our biggest concern. There can be any form of life, and we find it will allow us to know our origins and how life can develop. It is the final question of our existence”, he concludes.