The Wow! signal may have been a pair of comets


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Dammit. Beat me to it by three minutes.
This is spectacular news if true.


Couldn’t agree more, one puzzle solved. Go science!

But I’m curious: If comets typically emit large clouds of hydrogen - why don’t we have more false positives? The HI line is one (if not the most) used frequency in astronomy (and SETI).

eta: from TFA

James Bauer of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, agrees that the hydrogen from comets can extend quite far, but still thinks the signal won’t be strong enough. “If comets were radio-bright at 21 centimetres, I would be puzzled as to why they aren’t observed more often at those wavelengths,” he says.


But… I was hoping it was aliens D-;


I’m not sure. I’d guess that the ratio of Deuterium to Hydrogen would produce subtly different wavelengths.
Deuterium is basically Hydrogen, only heavier.
This ratio is how we know that Earth was not seeded with water by the likes of comet CG. So I’d say that the general fingerprint of comets is known, and is taken into account.
I’m not a physicist, but I’d guess If two crossing comets had different wavelengths merging together, I suppose it’s possible that it may have produced an harmonic frequency, making a signal of interest.


If it were aliens, that message would have already been 1500 to 25000 years old.


Um, yeah, but are you saying it still wouldn’t mean anything to know we aren’t alone in the universe? Or uh, weren’t…


Oh no, not at all. That would be absolutely mind-blowingly brilliant. OTOH it would be finding a fossil, rather than an organism. Not something we could have a back-and-forth with. Any intelligent life is too marooned for that.
And although I believe life is plentiful in the cosmos, I think intelligent life is extremely rare, not inevitable at all.
Intelligence only arrived on Earth seconds ago in the big scheme of things. Life plodded along for millennia before us. I think it takes a perfect storm of factors, environmental, biological and cosmological to allow creatures such as us to evolve.
If the dinosaurs hadn’t been so rudely interrupted, it’s likely we’d never have happened.


I was thinking about this the other day and, srsly, if your civilization has mastered what it would need to in order to “pop by for a visit” - would they actually want to come here? I sure wouldn’t. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to one day find that this blue marble has been blacklisted.


Not if they were Martians, mister smarty pants!


Which ones then clever clogs?





There’s no arguing with that.


Probably true.


Thanks, Obama!


To be exact, it has roughly twice the mass (1N + 1P + 1e). Deuterium and tritium are the only isotopes whose masses are actually multiples of the principal isotope, which is why they are identified by special names. For such a common element, hydrogen has some of the weirdest properties.


Quite a small sample for such a categorical claim.

Also, do we count that bacterium that survived in a camera on the Moon as a life form on another planet?


Only one. And as @shaddack inferred, sample size is everything.
Here on Earth we have a sample size of millions of different organisms, over millions of years, and only one of them developed intelligence(1), and that seems to have only happened because small, shrew-like mammals got a lucky break. If the dinosaurs (amongst others) weren’t wiped out, I’d wager my birth that Earth would still be a wild and overgrown place.

I think that it’s wrong to compare it to exceptionalism. That’s a strawman. Or possibly a red herring.

(1) As intelligence is a little slippery to define, I’ve used ‘the ability to actually work out what those lights in the sky are’ as my yardstick.


In an infinite universe you can have an infinite number of intelligent-lifeform inhabited planets… infinitely far part.