This weekend, a group of astronomers made many, many headlines after giving a presentation about “a strong signal in the direction of HD164595.” HD164595 is a Sun-like star 94 light-years away, and with the RATAN-600 radio telescope in Zelenchukskaya, Russia, pointed in its direction, the astronomers picked up a blast of radio waves about 4.5 times stronger than background static. Maybe aliens? they suggested. We should investigate.
Their presentation began circulating among astronomers in slide-deck form. Paul Gilster at the website Centauri Dreams wrote about it as “an interesting SETI candidate”—meaning perhaps it came from an extraterrestrial civilization. That set off the media storm.
But I have to tell you something: Astronomers don’t know much about that “SETI candidate” signal beyond that it’s made of radio waves. And while human beings should absolutely spend some time figuring out what this signal is, they have almost no reason to conclude it came from non-human beings. Here’s why:
They don’t actually know it’s coming from that star.