Proxima Centauri is a small, low-mass star located 4.2465 light-years (1.3020 pc) away from the Sun in the southern constellation of Centaurus. It is the Milky Way's neighboring small star, and part of the Alpha Centauri star system.
Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA
Scientists studying attested data collected by the Parkes radio telescope in Australia say they have found a radio signal that came from the direction of Proxima Centauri, the closest star to Earth. The radio signal was originally picked up in April and May 2019.
The discovery was leaked to the British newspaper The Guardian, which reported the story on December 18. Researchers subsequently granted interviews to Scientific American and National Geographic. Since then, however, the discovery team has remained silent about the signal.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and no one—including the scientists analyzing the data—are claiming they’ve found aliens. A paper analyzing the findings is not expected to be published until later this year.
The Parkes telescope in New South Wales, Australia.
Photograph: CSIRO/PR IMAGE/TheGuardian
1. The signal was found by Breakthrough Listen, a privately funded effort to search for signals from extraterrestrial beings.
2. Breakthrough Listen scientists recorded the signal while monitoring Proxima Centauri for flares to understand how they might affect conditions on the star’s planets. The team has dubbed the signal BLC-1, for Breakthrough Listen Candidate-1.
3. The signal frequency is 982 Mhz– a narrow-band value that is not transmitted by human-made spacecraft or satellites. Neither do we know of a natural astronomical phenomenon that can generate such a radio signal.
Pete Worden, executive director of Breakthrough Listen’s parent organization, Breakthrough Initiatives, told Scientific American that the signal is 99.9 percent likely to be human radio interference. On December 19, he tweeted: “At this point, we have some interesting signals we believe are interference but as of yet have not been able to track down the source.”
In an interaction with Scientific American, Penn State University professor Jason Wright stated that if one sees such a signal, and it is not coming from the surface of Earth, one knows they have detected extraterrestrial technology.
The Breakthrough Listen team is now working on two scientific papers that will report more details on BLC-1. They are also undoubtedly trying to identify all possible sources of terrestrial interference, as well as determine whether the signal repeats by observing again with Parkes and other radio telescopes, or combing through archival data.
If BLC-1 is simply — as is most likely — human interference, then it's no big deal, but if it is a legitimate extraterrestrial signal, it could change the course of world history.
PROXIMA CENTAURI B This artist’s impression shows the planet Proxima Centauri b orbiting its host star. Located 4.2 light-years from Earth, Proxima Centauri is the closest star to our solar system. ESO / M. Kornmesser