A week ago, astronomers announced they had detected strange signals from a nearby star. Researchers used the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico to spot mysterious, repeating signals coming from the star Ross 128 – located about 11 light-years away – back in May. It turns out the signals were coming from an unexpected source, although we regret to inform you that it was not extraterrestrial beings.
A followup study found that not only were the strange signals not from an alien civilisation, they weren’t even from another star. The weird, repeating signals the astronomers attributed to Ross 128 actually came from a communications satellite orbiting overhead.
Of course, most astronomers didn’t believe the signals were from aliens at all, and most of the debate about the signal had to do with what sort of natural phenomenon could have produced it. Some astronomers believed the radio bursts were the result of some strange kind of solar flare coming from Ross 128, while others suspected it was background signal from a passing dwarf star.
Unfortunately, it turns out neither of those guesses was correct, which means there isn’t any exciting new discovery waiting to be made. This mostly serves as a lesson for astronomers to be careful where they point the telescopes, and for the public and certain tabloids not to cry “aliens” whenever there’s a weird signal coming out of the sky.
This article was originally written for and published by Popular Mechanics USA.