In the night sky is the constellation Hercules, and one of its stars is HD 164595. 164595 is mostly notable for being a star much like our own sun and having one planet with a forty-day year and a mass sixteen times that of Earth, a rare star that hasn’t had more planets found by the prolific Kepler project. Until today, when it was revealed a “strong” radio signal was captured from it by a Russian telescope. And that might mean an alien civilization is closer than we thought.
It’s worth noting that nobody is quite certain that these are aliens; in fact, alien hunters aren’t even putting that possibility on the table just yet. But the signal itself is attention-getting. Recorded by a Russian telescope on May 15, 2015, at a wavelength of 2.7cm and broadcasting at 11Ghz, there are many explanations more plausible than aliens building a radio mast, such as an Earth-based signal bouncing off a piece of space debris. In fact, that’s what an astronomer contacted by Ars Technica believes, although, intriguingly, he rules out most known cosmic phenomena, in part because the signal’s total broadcast was too long. Most cosmic phenomena we mistake for aliens offers short bursts.
Part of the reason it’s so curious is the timing. Considering the strength of the signal and the distance, it would have first been triggered in the 19th century, and it would have come from a type II civilization on the Kardashev scale. Type II civilizations on that scale can literally harness and use all the energy from entire stars, and they don’t generally fire off just one signal and then go entirely silent. Think about all the radio chatter we as a species spew out: Cell phone calls, GPS signals, Crazy Ira and The Douche on 105.6 Your Morning Rock Block. If we manage to rule out every other explanation, we’d then have to answer the question of why we’re not picking up aliens pulling a War of The Roses on each other on air.
This likely is not a signal from aliens. But if we rule out everything else, Stephen Hawking might finally get his wish.