Last weekend, astronomers from the Breakthrough Listen Project made a truly incredible discovery: a mysterious radio beam emanating from the vicinity of Proxima Centauri which, for the uninitiated, is the closest solar system to the Sun (which is about 4.2 light years from us).
Only last week a team of scientists from Cornell University discovered what they believe is the first radio signature emitted by a planet outside our Solar System, but this time in the constellation of Boote, a large Constellation of the northern hemisphere.
Proxima Centauri’s signal of 982 megahertz, nicknamed BLC1 (Breakthrough Listen 1), came from the star, as detected by the Parkes telescope in Australia in April and May 2019. The system in question contains a planet nicknamed Proxima b, on 20 % larger than the Earth, which is located in the habitable zone.
In a recent statement, the SETI Institute commented on the report which is considered as a candidate, not a confirmed signal. ‘Due to its profile, it is very unlikely that the signal was produced by a natural but unknown cosmic source, but who knows […] Nature often surprises us,’ reads the statement, written by the planetary astronomer Of the SETI Institute, Franck Marchis.
It could be a picked up signal coming directly from Earth. ‘The idea of a technologically advanced civilization living around our closest stellar neighbor is quite extraordinary,’ admits Marchis. ‘Currently, we are left with more questions than answers: Why was the signal only detected once within 30 hours in April and May?’ Unfortunately, however, the same scientist admits that ‘probably the signal is not alien and we will confirm it soon’. ‘Of course, as a SETI scientist, nothing would please me more than being proven wrong.’
After all, scientists but also civilians from all over the world have been waiting for years for a ‘sign’ of something other than our solar system: this is why discoveries like these last ones could forever change the course of our history, including the fate of the Earth itself.
Still, we await possible confirmations or – much more likely – denials. Surely the question is intriguing.