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Whatever Happened to Wow?

Updated on February 25, 2012

The Elusive WOW

72 Seconds of History
72 Seconds of History | Source


A large radio telescope outside of Delaware, Ohio in 1977 received a signal that was identical to what an alien radio signal would look like.

The telescope was searching the skies on behalf of SETI, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, and the scientist for SETI, Jerry Ehman, on noticing the data on a printout immediately wrote “WOW” against the relevant data. Ever since then, the signal has always been referred to as the “wow” incident.

Although Ehman and other scientists have been trying to duplicate this signal since 1977, no one has been able to do so.

Unfortunately, even though the Delaware telescope is a reasonably large one, the area it was able to record the signal coming from still contained hundreds of stars.

The Stars

Too Numerous
Too Numerous | Source

New Mexico

Among the astronomers looking to repeat “the elusive wow” was Robert Gray. His search included the use of the Very Large Array Radio Observatory in New Mexico which if he had been successful would have been able to pinpoint the exact star from which the signal originated, but alas his efforts were in vain.

Since 1977 SETI has become a much bigger operation, yet still endeavoring to find a signal like the one that they had already received.

Many speculations have been put forward as to what the wow signal may have been, from an aircraft, quasar, pulsar, satellite even spy satellite but almost all have been proven not to have been plausible.

What was the elusive wow?


The favorite theory of some scientists is that if this signal was being sent from another planet, then it was probably being sent from a fixed position on that planet, in a similar way in which a lighthouse operates on Earth. If this were the case, then with the movement of that planet and the movement of our own it could explain as to why the signal has not yet been found again.

The wow signal only lasted for seventy two seconds but those few seconds have probably caused more speculation than any other seconds in the history of our planet.

Although this signal, on its own, cannot prove the existence of aliens, it has been suggested that this is like a pull on a fishing line: you are not sure that you have caught something but it is enough of a reaction for you to consider leaving your line in the water.

Wow indeed.


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    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico

      I hadn't heard of this, either. A cynic might think - upon the absence of supporting data - that SETI was ensuring future funding.

      On the other hand, they must be out there somewhere.


    • rafken profile image

      rafken 5 years ago from The worlds my oyster

      The graph will usually show low numbers signifying background noise. A signal will get a higher number then move to letters. The graphic shows a jump of 30 places, a certain radio signal.

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 5 years ago from Northern California

      Voted up. Thanks, I'd never heard of the Wow Incident before. However in looking at the graphic at the top of the hub, it's not obvious to me why it rates a Wow.