Not made by humans? | Part 1

Dawn at Big Ear, Ohio State University,

At a quarter past ten in the evening on the 15th of August 1977
a once-in-a-lifetime event took place in Delaware:

a very strong signal arrived at the “Big Ear” radio telescope. It had all the characteristics of having come from an extraterrestrial intelligent source.

The OSU Big Ear radio observatory was aligned in North/South direction. The parabolic reflector is in the South.

No-one was at the telescope at the time. The receiver and telescope computer were doing their jobs all by themselves. Therefore the signal was actually first detected by a machine, a twelve year old computer.

The IBM 1130 had first been built in 1965. it looked and felt like an old battleship. It had only 1 megabyte of memory. For that reason the only record of the radio signal is a 6 digit printout on endless paper. There’s no audio recording of the signal. Today we would have a complete audio recording of it, measuring mega- if not gigabytes. But in those days, just six characters on paper had to suffice as a record.

After a few days the stack of computer printouts was bundled by Big Ear technician Gene Mikesell and brought to Jerry Ehman’s home.

Jerry Ehman was a SETI volunteer with the Ohio State University. Together with Bob Dixon he had written the software for the Big Ear computer in FORTRAN and assembler.

Around the 19th of August Jerry began analyzing the printouts from the radio telescope at his home, looking for unusual radio signatures.

A few pages into the pile of paper he saw a peculiar sequence of numbers and characters.

He was astonished. After highlighting in red pen the six characters “6EQUJ5” Jerry wrote the notation “Wow!” in the left margin of the computer printout opposite them.

The Wow! signal printout

The characters and numbers denoted a very strong narrow-band transmission. Apparently it had come from outer space. Narrow-band transmissions usually don’t occur naturally and are a sign of artificial origin.

Conventionally speaking, all artificial things are made by humans. That’s because human language and the Cambridge Dictionary defines “artificial” as “made by humans”. That definition may have to be revised.

The Wow! transmission had all the hallmarks of a radio signal from a non-human extraterrestrial civilization. In the 1959 article “Searching for Interstellar Communications” Giuseppe Cocconi and Philip Morrison explained that using the 21 cm hydrogen frequency was a logical choice for SETI.

And that was precisely the frequency of the Wow! signal. It had come from the direction in the sky were the constellation Sagittarius is found. 

The Big Ear radio and computer shack.

If we transfer the number codes from the Wow! printout to plotting paper we can see the waxing and waning strength of the 1420 mHz radio beam that reached the radio telescope. Each of the letters and numbers corresponds to a certain signal intensity, as the next graph illustrates.

The signal may have been transmitting for centuries and was never detected because no one looked for it before. The signal source did not move in the sky. The only thing that moved over for 72 seconds was the Earth, rotating majestically from East to West as the radio receiver moved in and out of the signal beam.

And then the signal vanished. Gone. The signal would have been picked up again by the second horn antenna of Big Ear. But it was no longer there.

The rise and fall of the signal we see in the graph above was due to the antenna pattern, the signal itself remained at constant strength.

The graph below shows a similar signal pattern in “OV-221”, the radio source to the right of the Wow! signal. (OV-221 is also known as MSH 19203 (Mills Slee Hill Radio Sources)).

In this broadband continuum record the Wow! signal does not show up because it is too narrow-band.

Today I’m waiting to hear if OV-221 corresponds to the center of the Milky Way galaxy , Sagittarius A*, but no-one seems to know the old radio source designations anymore.

After Jerry Ehman showed the computer printout of the Wow! signal to John Kraus and Bob Dixon, they immediately talked about it, speculating and making hypotheses. Quickly, John and Bob began to investigate the various possibilities.

Dr. John Kraus was a physicist and the designer of the Big Ear radio telescope. He actually invented several types of radio antennas.

Bob Dixon was the director of SETI at Ohio State University radio telescope.

Together they excluded the possibility of the signal having been a plane, planet, asteroid, comet, satellite, space craft, ground based transmitter, or any other known natural source.

Now, since the Wow! signal appeared to be unnatural and no known human cause for it could be found, it was suspected that it could have come from a technological alien civilisation.

It was decided to go back to the region in space were the signal had come to see if it could be found again. The scientific method calls for reproducibility of any experiment or result.

Weeks turned to months, and years into decades as astronomers from all over the world searched the region in space were the Wow! signal had been detected.

The Wow! signal was never found again.

Calculations on the space region of the Wow! signal

Image by The Planetary Society, license

The Wow! signal was observed for 72 seconds. In this time a region of space equivalent to 18 arcminutes was scanned, according to the following calculations:

24h x 60 min = 1440 mins/day = 86400 sec
360° / 86400 = 0.0041° per second
72 seconds = 0.3°

An arcminute (denoted by the symbol ‘), is an angular measurement equal to 1/60 of a degree or 60 arcseconds. To convert a degree measurement to a minute of arc measurement, we multiply the angle by the conversion ratio.

The angle in minutes of arc is equal to the degrees multiplied by 60:
0.3 x 60 = 18 arcminutes.

As seen from the Earth, the Sun and Moon both have angular diameters of about 30 arcminutes. The full moon’s average apparent size is about 31 arcminutes (or 0.52°).

In other words, the Wow! signal spanned an area of about half the size of the Sun or the Moon, as seen from Earth in the sky. That is a rather large area in astronomy.

On the basis of this simple calculation I cannot readily agree that the Wow! signal came from a pointlike source. That may or may not be a problem. It can be resolved by agreeing that the resolution of the Big Ear radio telescope was not any better!

The frequency and speed of the Wow! signal source

It’s assumed that aliens that use the hydrogen frequency do so in a manner to compensate for the motion of their planet with respect to the motion of Earth. Otherwise the precise frequency of the hydrogen becomes higher or lower.

That’s why it’s important to look at the precise frequency of the signal.

John Kraus, the director of the observatory, gave a frequency value of 1420.3556 MHz in his 1994 summary written for Carl Sagan.

Jerry Ehman in 1998 gave a value of 1420.4556±0.005 MHz. 

This is (50±5 kHz) above the hydrogen line value of 1420.4058 MHz.

Only one of those frequencies could be the correct one. The explanation of the difference between Ehman’s and Kraus’s values was that a new oscillator had been ordered for the frequency of 1450.4056 MHz.

The university’s purchasing department then made a typographical error in the order and wrote 1450.5056 MHz instead of 1450.4056 MHz. The software used in the experiment was then written to adjust for this error. When Ehman computed the frequency of the Wow! signal, he took this error into account.

After all errors are accounted for, the Doppler shift of 1420.4556 MHz indicates that the Wow! signal source moved at a speed of 37 893 km/h towards Earth. The following calculations show how I arrived at that speed:

Calculations on the Doppler shift of the Wow! signal

The Wow! signal was detected at 1420.4556 MHz. First we need to convert the frequency to the wavelength. The wavelength is given by the frequency and the speed of light, how far one wave crest travels in a given time span.

Frequency to wavelength calculator:

The frequency of the Wow! signal 1420.4556 MHz is equal to a wavelength of (Δλ) 21.105373 cm. That’s the distance between each wave crest.

The presumed origin signal of hydrogen has a precise frequency of 1420405751.768 Hz, equivalent to the wavelength of (λ) 21.106114054160 cm. Wikipedia:

The doppler shift speed from delta lambda and lambda = 299 781 932.02409 m/sec.

Now we subtract
299 781 932.02409 m/sec
[Doppler shifted Wow! signal speed from v = (Δλ/λ) * c]
-299 792 458 m/sec [ speed of light (c)]

10 526 m/sec = 37 893 km/h or 10.526 km/sec.

Ref. 1: The source of the Wow! signal approached Earth at a speed of 37 893 km/h or 23 545 mph, if the transmission frequency was from hydrogen.

The average speed of asteroids is 18 – 20 km/s vs the 10.52 km/s from the Wow! signal. Comets that impact Earth usually are also faster, at 30 km/s.

End of part 1.

Follow this story and more on
A proposal to make radio contact with UAPs/UFOs


Visits: 6383 | Total: 35254

Statement of the Contact Project regarding METI

Text revised and updated: 11. January 2022

Don’t Be Afraid of Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence | Douglas Vakoch

Dr. Vakoch is President of Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI).

“As astronomers launch ambitious projects for Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence, alarmists worry that transmitting intentional radio and laser signals into space may provoke an alien invasion. These critics overlook one fundamental fact: it’s too late to hide.”

Dr. Vakoch, Feb 3, 2020

Dr. Vakoch is currently not associated with the ‘Contact Project & Initiative’. His statement was directed at the fact that humanity has been announcing it’s presence via radio signals to our cosmic neighborhood for the last 100 years. He did not mean to imply that Alien presences are already here.

This is what the Contact Project & Initiative is about:
The Mission of ‘The Contact Project & Initiative’ is to investigate UAPs/UFOs on every frequency, using real-time tracking, radio receivers and transmitters, HD video, HD images, optical and radio telescopes and passive & active radar, so that the question of the nature and origin of UAP can be answered without doubts.

The engine of this initiative will be an app custom designed to coordinate real-time reporting, alerting, documenting and contacting efforts.

Anyone can take part, there’ll be a public as well as a science data channel. The goal of the ‘Contact Initiative’ is to gather high quality evidence.

To do this every frequency will be scanned, including the 1420 Mhz hydrogen waterhole, which is legal as long as it’s done passively. If transmissions are found, the next step is to discover if UAPs react to radio transmissions. Broadcasting at a frequency of 1420 MHz is illegal under international law, however.

Should the UAP respond to transmissions on HAM or CB radio amateur frequencies, great! But what if it doesn’t?

To have any chance to stay legal under current law and to be able to broadcast at 1420 Mhz the UAP position data must be forwarded in real time to SETI for further investigation.

Actually, a memorandum should be drafted to provide for an exception to broadcast on 1420 Mhz for METI purposes. The relevant article of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is recommendation RA.769 : Protection criteria used for radio astronomical measurements

What does the Contact Project want to do?
We want to do METI (messaging ETi) with a target that’s already here, UAPs. We don’t have to worry about attracting the attention of “hostile” aliens by messaging them as they already know of us, if that’s what UAPs/UFOs are.

As things go, this possibility wasn’t seriously considered by the METI organization in 2015, because the subject of UAPs was still considered too crackpot then.

So, the statement issued by the METI organization regarding messaging extraterrestrial intelligence only covers targets outside of Earth’s atmosphere (statement here).

Since then, in 2021, this outlook has changed somewhat by the release of a preliminary assessment of the American Director of National Intelligence on UAPs (assessment here).

The METI statement called for a worldwide scientific, political and humanitarian discussion about the implications of messaging ET, before anything should be initiated. Arguably, since UAPs first made headlines in 1947 there’s been a worldwide discussion about “them” for over 75 years.

A lot of that time much of humanity reacted like an ostrich, sticking it’s head in the sand when hearing UFO reports. Or like three monkeys. Which comparison do we prefer?


Did it never occur to anyone that these phenomena may be more than swamp gas or the result of delusions? Sadly, as a result of the swamp gas hypothesis, the METI statement covers only METI targets outside of Earth.

METI might wish to reconsider their statement. Because currently there seems to be no position on contacting UAPs, to the best of my knowledge.

METI says:
ETI’s reaction to a message from Earth cannot presently be known.

If extraterrestrial civilizations have a presence on Earth in the form of UAPs/UFOs or drone-like von Neumann probes they will certainly be able to monitor our news and events. We already know that there was no reaction from UAPs/UFOs to the Voyager space probes and the Golden Records.

METI says:
We know nothing of ETI’s intentions and capabilities, and it is impossible to predict whether ETI will be benign or hostile.

Experience shows that when UAP are pursued by military jet fighters they don’t react hostile. Civilian planes are not attacked either. It’s reasonable to assume that the intelligence behind UAPs is mostly benign.

“The threat to humanity from each other is magnitudes greater than from ETi. That hasn’t and shouldn’t stop us from talking to each other and that includes ETi.”

The Contact Project

All sorts of explanations about UFOs and their prospective occupants have been given, from the no-contact rule of a Galactic Federation to higher dimensional frequencies that mortals can join only after exhaustive preparation.

I didn’t make up the Galactic Federation link to UAPs, this claim comes from highly decorated former Israeli Space Security Chief Haim Eshed.

Healthy skepticism is of course in order as most sightings have a prosaic explanation, ranging from misidentifications to pranks and hoaxes. But they don’t account for every sighting.

To admit in 2021 that some UAP cannot be explained was a major step forward by the US government.

The Contact Initiative wants to find out if there is just one UAP that will respond to radio transmissions. And that is easy.

And to prepare for the possibility of a positive response from an UAP?
Not so easy.

Monolith © Utah Department of Public Safety Aero Bureau

The Contact Project can be found on

Contact Project on reddit:

←Previous | Next→

Visits: 2014 | Total: 35254

SETI on the cheap

“There was a specific electronic signature (frequency) emanating from them (UFOs/UAPs) when they were going into or coming out of the water, so they were easy to track. “

wrote Bob Fish in an Email to John Podesta,
published on Wikileaks by Julian Assange.

Robert Fish, USS Hornet

Can we send “welcome” radio messages during a sighting at UFOs and listen back for a response? Of course we can. That has not been done yet. At least not by civilians. Someone asked on a forum what the frequency is that the Navy listened to…

The frequency is easy to find out.
When an UFO is near we use a multi frequency receiver that scans the entire (electromagnetic) radio spectrum in an instant. The “Uniden Close Call” feature is incorporated into many HAM radios. “Whistler Spectrum Sweeper” is another option.

Both are ways to find frequencies that are close to you with a very strong signal.

Uniden Close Call vs Whistler Spectrum Sweeper

The “AOR AR-7400” is another receiver that scans a predetermined spectrum in one second.

Licensed radio amateurs (HAM operators) near a sighting could try to find the correct UAP frequency and then try to make contact.

To do this there’s no need for highly sensitive multi billion dollar radio telescopes. SETI pointed their dishes at very narrow points in the sky, searching distant star systems for alien messages.

That is not necessary when the potential alien transmitters are close by.

With the open source smartphone app “UFO Alert!” any search partner will be informed immediately of interesting nearby UAPs.

If UAPs emit radio frequencies their signal will be close by and strong enough to be picked up by conventional antenna.

Avi Loeb
The question of “what are UAPs? is also being investigated by Avi Loeb with the “Galileo Project”: this consists of hundreds of stationary optical telescopes that hope to photograph UAPs in high resolution.

I don’t think pictures alone will be sufficient to explain UAPs, no matter how high the resolution. I wrote to Avi suggesting we pool our ideas.

Science has a tendency not to publish results until 100% certain about them. That could mean a delay.

Public channel
On the public channel of the “UFO Alert!” app there will be no such delay. Public participation and discussion about possible results is the apps main feature. It will be totally transparent.

Science channel
The “UFO Alert!’ may have search partners that take a more cautious approach in publishing their findings.

That’s possible due to the open architecture of the app. The results of one search partner or group may disagree with that of another.

Conclusive evidence
But the app of the Contact Project has one main goal: radio contact with UAP. The analysis of those transmissions, if they exist, should leave no doubt about the result.

Join the subreddit:

←Previous | Next→

Visits: 1897 | Total: 35254


The hand ✋Manus Dexter Palmar

So, we’re transmitting voice or data by radio to an UAP. They respond. What now?

Before we can have a meaningful communication with ETI (by radio), we need to agree on some form of handshake protocol. This is not just a friendly formality.

Communication, either analogue or digital, is dialogic. Dialogic processes refer to words uttered by a speaker and interpreted by a listener. We must make sure that the speaker is understood by the listener and that the listener can respond. It takes two to tango.

A handshake protocol can agree on the speed and language cypher to be used.

Language is seen as a cypher for thought, different groups of individuals employing unique sounds.

Language sets people apart, it seperates people into nations and regions. This gives them identity.

Digital V90 handshake

Computers or civilized states on common ground have developed handshake protocols for meeting strangers.

An example of a digital handshake are the modem sounds from dial up internet of the 1990’s. What we hear is the V90 handshake protocol of TCP-IP, the internet protocol.

In the movie end sequence in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, when the 5 note sequence is played and the mothership responds, we hear a demonstration of a tone-frequency handshake protocol that’s played by a musician.

Star Trek “First Contact”: ETI communication is initiated by handshake.

In the example from the Star Trek movie “First Contact”, a human literally shakes the hand of a Vulcan before communication is initiated. This is a dialogic handshake.

Not every human is comfortable shaking hands because of fear of viruses. Especially alien ones.

What kind of handshake protocol we’ll be using when we make First Contact with ETI we don’t know precisely.

But when it comes to the transmission of data then it will be a digital handshake. Therefore it’s pointless to expect to hear a single word from ET without ACK.


ACK! SYN? Mars Attacks movie poster

Known as the “SYN, SYN-ACK, ACK handshake,” computer A transmits a SYNchronize packet to computer B, which sends back a SYNchronize-ACKnowledge packet to A. Computer A then transmits an ACKnowledge packet to B, and the connection is established.

←Previous | Next→

Visits: 1534 | Total: 35254
EnglishFrenchGermanPortugueseSpanishItalianGreekTurkishRussianArabicHebrewHindiChinese (Simplified)KoreanJapanese