Amateur astronomer and YouTuber Alberto Caballero, co-founder of the Exoplanets Channel, has found little evidence of the source of the infamous “Wow!”
In an article uploaded to the arXiv preprint server, Caballero describes a search in the Gaia database for possible Sun-like stars that might host an exoplanet capable of supporting intelligent life.
Back in 1977, astronomers working with the Big Ear Radio telescope at the time in Delaware, Ohio, recorded a unique signal from somewhere in space. It was so powerful and unusual that one of the workers on the team, Jerry Eman, scrawled the word Wow! (Russian. Wow!) on the printout. Despite years of work and many man-hours, no one has been able to trace the source of the signal or explain the strong, unique signal that lasted the entire 72 seconds. Since then, many have proposed the only explanation for such a strong and unique signal – extraterrestrial intelligent life.
In a new search, Caballero reasoned that if the source were some other form of life, it would live on an exoplanet – and if that were the case, it would be logical to assume that such a form of life could live on a planet similar to Earth – one orbiting a solar star. Following this logic, Caballero began searching the public Gaia database for just such a star. The Gaia database was compiled by a team working at the Gaia Observatory, operated by the European Space Agency. Launched back in 2013, the project has been relentlessly working towards putting together the best map of the night sky. The team has mapped about 1.3 billion stars to date.
Examining the results of his search, Caballero discovered what appeared to fit all the requirements – the star 2MASS 19281982-2640123, which almost mirrors the sun – and is located in the part of the sky where the Wow! He notes that there are other possible candidates in the area, but suggests that his candidate could be a better starting point for new research efforts by astronomers who have the tools to search for exoplanets.