Astronomers Ermanno Borra and Eric Trottier from Laval University in Canada analyzed 2.5 million stars from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) project.
In their resulting study published in Solar and Stellar Astrophysics journal, the pair conclude that the peculiar signals they recorded could be from aliens trying to make contact with Earth.
The researchers came to this potential explanation based on a previous study by Borra which predicted the shape of an extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) signal. The 234 signals identified match this shape exactly.
The fact that only a small fraction – 234 out of 2.5 million – of the stars in our sun’s spectrum emitted this signal also matches the previous ETI hypothesis.
However the theory that these signals are the result of aliens is only one of a number of possibilities, according to the study, and they could in fact derive from any one of “several possibilities” such as “rotational transitions in molecules” or“rapid pulsations”.
So is this the discovery we’ve been waiting for to finally confirm we’re not alone in the universe? Not quite..
The authors admit that further work is needed to confirm this theory and are also considering the ‘unlikely’ scenario that the signals are due to highly peculiar chemical compositions in a small fraction of galactic halo stars.
Breakthrough Listen Initiative, a scientific and technological exploration program that includes Stephen Hawking and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on its board, has announced plans to research the findings further but says a breadth of independently verified proof is required to substantiate the claims.
“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” the group points out in a statement. “It is too early to unequivocally attribute these purported signals to the activities of extraterrestrial civilizations.”
“Internationally agreed-upon protocols for searches for evidence of advanced life beyond Earth (SETI) require candidates to be confirmed by independent groups using their own telescopes, and for all natural explanations to be exhausted before invoking extraterrestrial agents as an explanation,” they added.