Signal saw a year ago from HD164595, only 95 light years away and with at the least one planet, but Seti scientists are scanning the area and have yet to find it

As David Bowie had an opportunity to sing: is there life on HD164595b?

A Russian radio telescope scanning the skies has observed a strong signal from a nearby starring, HD164595, in the constellation Hercules. The starring is a scant 95 light years away and 99% of the size of Earths own sun. It has at least one planet, HD1 64595 b, which is about the size of Neptune and has a 40 -day year.

Seth Shostak of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute( Seti) in Mountain View, California, told the Guardian he was shocked to have learned of the discovery only now the readings from Russian radio telescope Ratan-6 00, Shostak said, were taken a year ago.

Seti, a private organisation, searches the skies for alien life and has been underwritten by US government divisions as diverse as Nasa and the Department of Energy. Operated by the Russian Academy of Sciences, Ratan-6 00 s primary area of focus is monitoring the sun, though it has contributed to Setis work.

The news came to international attention on Saturday through Claudio Maccone of the University of Turin in Italy, who attended a talk by the scientists who recorded the signal on 15 May 2015. Maccone passed data from the presentation to the science and science-fiction writer Paul Gilster, who maintains a blog about interstellar exploration called Centauri Dreams.

Maccone sent the Guardian his proposed presentation for the International Academy of Astronautics 2016 session on the subject of the search for alien life, defined for 27 September. He will call for the permanent monitoring of HD164595. The power of the signal received is not unrealistic for kind I civilizations, he wrote.

The phrase type I civilization is a designation on the Kardashev scale, named for Russian astrophysicist Nikolai Kardashev developed in the 1960 s and described in English in his 1985 paper On the Inevitability and the Possible Structures of Supercivilizations. A kind I civilization would be similar to the current development of technology on earth.

Could it be an ET? asked Shostak rhetorically. Of course, but[ Ratan-6 00] didnt have a receiver that has any spectral solving. The receiver on the Russian radio telescope is very wide, which aids it in its primary mission of monitoring solar activity but also means that, like a terrestrial radio receiving a news station, rocknroll station and country station at the same day, it is difficult to discern which band is broadcasting at which frequency. They have a receiver that would swallow a big chunk of the radio dial at once, Shostak said.

Because the receiver cover-ups such a big sweep of the radio dial, it is hard to tell if the signal comes from intelligent life.

If it is being broadcast across a large chunk of the radio spectrum, the noise is likely coming from a quasar or another source of stellar noise; if it is over a narrower band but very strong, it is likelier to be the product of intelligence.

Gilster said he was curious about the possibility that the signal could be caused by microlensing a quirk of gravity that occurs when massive objects like stars or quasars are aligned behind another heavenly body.

My own believe is that this is very possibly a one-time signal, much like the famous WOW! signal some years back, Gilster said. On 15 August 1977, astronomer Jerry Ehman received a powerful radio signal from a group of stars called Chi Sagittarii; he circled the surprising spot on the readout and wrote WOW! The signal never returned.

If it too doesnt repeat, said Gilster, then we wont know what it was, including the possibility of some kind of local signal whose source simply hasnt been figured out.

Shostak said he wished he had been made aware of the signal earlier. Why is it that were hearing about this now because one of the guys devoted a talk in Moscow a year ago? he asked. Maccones explanation is that the Russians are shy.[ But] its generally accepted procedure in the Seti community if you find a signal that you think is interesting, you call up people in another observatory and tell: Hey, heres the position in the sky, and you see what happens.

Gilster said his understanding was that the Russian squad had spent the past year analyzing and confirming its data.

Shostak told the Guardian that Setis own radio telescope was scanning the coordinates in question in search of the promising signal as of Sunday night. That evening, though, everything was quiet.

The Russian radio telescope squad and Maccone have been contacted for comment.

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