A signal detected by a Chinese telescope and originally reported as possible evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence is almost certainly due to human factors, said one of the project’s researchers.
The signal, spotted by the Five-Hundred-Meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST), was announced by the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology newspaper this week. Science and Technology Daily, which said it had discovered “possible technological traces of extraterrestrial civilizations”. However, researcher Dan Werthimer of the University of California, Berkeley has said live science that the signals are “from”. [human] Radio interference, and not from aliens.”
FAST is a huge ground-based telescope that is extremely sensitive, picking up radio signals from different points in the sky. It is used for SETI (the search for extraterrestrial intelligence) research by looking for technosignatures, which are signals that would be generated by the technology of distant civilizations.
FAST sifts through vast amounts of data looking for evidence of technosignatures, but it faces difficulties because it’s so sensitive. Curtin University SETI researcher Danny Price, who was not involved in the FAST research, explained in The conversation Because FAST is so sensitive, it picks up signals from many sources and tends to detect radio interference. He warned the public, “Stay intrigued, but don’t get too excited” when hearing about possible signals from extraterrestrial civilizations.
The signal detected by FAST was of particular interest because it was in a narrow band, which is unusual for natural sources. But one of the Chinese researchers, Tong-Jie Zhang, also warned in Science and Technology Daily that the possibility that the signal they discovered was radio interference is “very high”.
That’s because there are so many radio signals going out on Earth that it’s very hard to avoid them all. “The big problem, and the problem in this particular case, is that we’re looking for signals from extraterrestrials, but what we’re finding are tens of millions of signals from terrestrials,” Werthimer told Live Science. “The signals are very faint, but the cryogenic receivers on the telescopes are super sensitive and can pick up signals from cell phones, televisions, radar and satellites – and there are more satellites in the sky every day.” “
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