The WOW! Signal Is Just As Mysterious As It Was In 1977

On August 15, 1977, a large radio telescope at Ohio State University — which went by its more popular name "The Big Ear" — received a mysterious signal that got immortalized as "the WOW! signal" in the scientific community. Even though The Big Ear was decommissioned a couple of decades later in 1998, hunt for the bizarre radio signal has continued. Over the years, numerous experts have tried to triangulate its source and explain its origin, but nothing conclusive has come up so far.

The latest attempt comes courtesy of a double-telescopic study published in the Research Notes of the American Astronomical, but unfortunately, it found nothing and only adds to the mystery. Titled "Breakthrough Listen Search for the WOW! signal," the paper discusses efforts deploying the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope and the Allen Telescope Array towards the possible source of the signal, which has spawned numerous alien contact theories ever since.

Building on previous work done in the field and pulling up data from the Gaia archives, the team focused their efforts on the 2MASS 19281982-2640123 star system, which is believed to be a plausible source of the WOW! signal. The team embarked on a journey to hunt for "technosignatures," but returned empty handed without any signal-generating event or source detected in that region of the space.

It was futile, but we've only scratched the surface

As part of the latest investigation into the WOW! signal's potential source (per IOP), the team pointed both of the aforementioned Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope and the Allen Telescope Array at the target star system. The observation, which deployed the Green Bank Telescope for two sessions and the Allen Telescope for six rounds, ended up with a blank slate. Even when the observations from both telescopes overlapped, nothing interesting linked to the WOW! signal came out of it.

But there were a couple of silver linings to the seemingly fruitless effort. First, the technique employed by the team represents an "attempt to prepare for verification in the case that future candidate technosignatures are identified by either telescope individually." In a nutshell, the dual-telescopic signal search procedure can just be directed towards another possible source to hunt for the WOW! signal's origin — or similar radio disturbances.

Talking about potential sources, the team highlighted "8 Sun-like stars within the WOW! signal uncertainty region" that could be explored for further research. When temperature range is used as a marker for observations, there are no less than six hundred sources — including different types of stars that could potentially be hosting habitable plants — which could be used as the next observation target to demystify the WOW signal. Notably, the WOW! signal's alien origins bank on the existence of an advanced civilization, but there's been no direct evidence of any civilization similar or equal to humans that we've discovered.