The WOW! Signal Explained

Everyone knows about the Wow! signal. It was detected 40 years ago coming from somewhere in the constellation Sagittarius. According to Wikipedia: “The Wow! signal was regarded for decades as the strongest candidate for an alien radio transmission.”

That’s the sort of thing that gives creationists nightmares, because their “science” tells them that the whole universe is essentially a one-world affair — this one, created just for us. Due to the discovery that there are probably billions of extra-solar planets out there, they’ve recently revised their dogma to claim that the universe has only one life-bearing planet — or at least only one where there is intelligent life.

Evidence of intelligent aliens would be catastrophic to the creationists’ view of things — except for the Discoveroids, who recently adjusted their “science” so that finding life out there would — get this! — confirm their “theory” of intelligent design. A few days ago in Could Atheism Survive the Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life? they said:

The probability of life spontaneously self-assembling anywhere in this universe is mind-staggeringly unlikely; essentially zero.


The discovery of extraterrestrial life would be the death knell for atheism, at least for the thinking atheist. On the other hand, such a discovery should not be in the least surprising, if there is a supernatural Creator who has designed the universe to support life, and has brought about life and beauty throughout the universe, even if no human ever gets to see it.

That means there will be mixed reactions to the latest news we just spotted at PhysOrg: Wow! mystery signal from space finally explained. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

A team of researchers with the Center of Planetary Science (CPS) has finally solved the mystery of the “Wow!” signal from 1977. It was a comet, they report, one that that was unknown at the time of the signal discovery. Lead researcher Antonio Paris describes their theory and how the team proved it in a paper published in the Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences.

Here’s a link to that paper: HYDROGEN LINE OBSERVATIONS OF COMETARY SPECTRA AT 1420 MHZ. It’s a 20-page pdf file, and you can read it on-line without a subscription. We’ll stay with PhysOrg. They tell us:

Back in August of 1977, a team of astronomers studying radio transmissions from an observatory at Ohio State called the “Big Ear” recorded an unusual 72-second signal — it was so strong that team member Jerry Ehman scrawled “Wow!” next to the readout. Since that time, numerous scientists have searched for an explanation of the signal, but until now, no one could offer a valid argument. Possible sources such as asteroids, exo-planets, stars and even signals from Earth have all been ruled out. Some outside the science community even suggested that it was proof of aliens. It was noted that the frequency was transmitted at 1,420 MHz, though, which happens to be the same frequency as hydrogen.

Then they say:

The explanation started to come into focus last year when a team at the CPS suggested that the signal might have come from a hydrogen cloud accompanying a comet — additionally, the movement of the comet would explain why the signal was not seen again. The team noted that two comets had been in the same part of the sky that the Big Ear was monitoring on the fateful day. Those comets, P/2008 Y2(Gibbs) and 266/P Christensen had not yet been discovered. The team then got a chance to test their idea as the two comets appeared once again in the night sky from November 2016 through February of 2017.

What did they find? We’re told:

The team reports that radio signals from 266/P Christensen matched those from the Wow! signal 40 years ago. To verify their results, they tested readings from three other comets, as well, and found similar results.

So that’s it? The WOW! Signal turns out to be no big deal? Almost, but not quite. The article ends with this:

The researchers acknowledge that they cannot say with certainty that the Wow! signal was generated by 266/P Christensen, but they can say with relative assurance that it was generated by a comet.

That’s good enough. We anticipate some celebration at the usual creationist websites. They’ll be relieved to learn that the WOW! Signal was a natural phenomenon. They usually reject natural explanations, preferring to believe that everything has a supernatural cause. In this case, however, they’ll abandon their principles and embrace the finding that the WOW! Signal was natural — except for the Discoveroids, of course. They’ve announced that aliens will prove their “theory,” so maybe they’ll post about their disappointment. We’ll be watching.

Copyright © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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7 responses to “The WOW! Signal Explained

  1. Ross Cameron

    First no life elsewhere but on Earth. Now the possibility that god could have created life elsewhere. Seems to me that Xianity is—-dare I say it—-undergoing evolution.

  2. Eric Lipps

    Unfortunately, it’s win-win for creationists on this issue. If no alien life is ever found, they’ll say that proves life was divinely created on Earth alone. If, on the other hand, life, even intelligent life, is discovered someday, they’ll say it was divinely created right along with life on Earth. Either way, they can insist that evolution had nothing to do with it.

  3. Nothing new, EricL. It’s their main principle. Both X and -X are always conclusive proof for creationism.

  4. For a group that has maintainedthat their views are true and unchanging, their recent pronouncements concerning scientific discoveries indicate that they are afraid. I enjoy that fact.

  5. techreseller

    Cool news on the Wow signal. This is how science operates. No agenda. Just find the hypothesis that best fits the available facts. As far as the Discoveroids. It must be hard to live with such a brain. Both x and not x are both true at the same time in the same place. How do they walk and bathe?

  6. On the one hand, I admit being a bit disappointed they weren’t pointy-eared aliens after all. But at the same time, I’m impressed how they solved this after all this time.

  7. The DI is hedging its bet. However, no matter what they might be smoking, the discovery of alien life would be a major problem for any religion that believes in a special creation. On the other hand, it would be expected by atheists or anyone who views life as a natural phenomenon.

    The entire DI gig is that life is super duper improbable. Discovery of the signs of life elsewhere would even more super duper improbable. No need to change the DI position. But if such a thing ever actually happens, anything the DI says will be lost in the noise. I don’t think they realize just how major such a discovery would be. Especially, as would likely be the case, discovery of the chemical signs of life with no indication of civilization. What possible religious explanation could account for a god creating worlds for non-sentient life? What purpose would such worlds serve? I can’t see how claiming that such life was intelligently designed makes any sense.