The Wow! signal

po_Wow-SignalThe Wow! signal was a strong narrowband radio signal detected by Jerry R. Ehman on August 15, 1977, while he was working on a SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) project at the Big Ear radio telescope of The Ohio State University, then located at Ohio Wesleyan University’s Perkins Observatory in Delaware, Ohio. The signal bore the expected hallmarks of non-terrestrial and non-Solar System origin. It lasted for the full 72-second window that Big Ear was able to observe it, but has not been detected again. The signal has been the subject of significant media attention.

Amazed at how closely the signal matched the expected signature of an interstellar signal in the antenna used, Ehman circled the signal on the computer printout and wrote the comment “Wow!” on its side. This comment became the name of the signal.

In 2012, on the 35th anniversary of the Wow! signal, Arecibo Observatory beamed a response from humanity, containing 10,000 Twitter messages, in the direction from which the signal originated. In the response, Arecibo scientists have attempted to increase the chances of intelligent life receiving and decoding the celebrity videos and crowd-sourced tweets by attaching a repeating sequence header to each message that will let the recipient know that the messages are intentional and from another intelligent life form.