For SETI, the signal from Proxima Centauri is very strange

Proxima Centauri has been the center of attention since our instruments detected what appears to be a radio signal coming from one of the planets in the system. And unsurprisingly, the SETI find that this signal is very strange.

Proxima Centauri occupies a somewhat special place. It is indeed the closest planetary system to Earth. A neighboring system, therefore, which houses a star and at least one planet.

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Proxima Centauri b, that’s its name, was discovered in 2016 and it orbits in the habitability zone of its star. Fairly close to our own world, it would come into the family of rocky planets and its mass would be approximately 1.3 times that of Earth.

Proxima Centauri, our neighbor

This has not yet been verified, but the system would also house a second planet, dubbed Proxima Centauri c. According to studies carried out during the last decade, this last one would be a Super Earth and it would be at least six times the mass of our world.

But if Proxima Centauri has been talked about so much since the start of the week, it’s not for its configuration, but for a signal detected by the Breakthrough Listen.

The signal in question, called BLC1, would reach 982 megahertz and it would indeed come from the system… or from one of its planets. Even more surprisingly, the signal in question would be close to those we send.

The news did not go unnoticed and it was thus relayed by many media – starting with ours. For many, it indeed opens the field of possibilities, to the extent that it is unlikely to have a natural source.

An extraterrestrial civilization …

Should this be seen as the work of an extraterrestrial civilization? SETI came back to this delicate question in a recent statement. The institute thus recognizes the strangeness of the signal, but it also wanted to put the discovery in its context and to recall that BLC1 was a candidate, and non a confirmed signal.

Micka told you about it in this other article mentioned above, but many researchers believe that the spotted signal could have been produced… by the Earth.

Our equipment generates many radio signals and these do not stay wisely on Earth. They radiate indeed towards space, to such an extent that they even ended up forming an invisible cocoon around our world.

In the press release published by SETI, Franck Marchis, the institute’s senior planetary astronomer, reminds us that it is perfectly possible that the signal picked up by the Breakthrough Listen actually comes from the Earth – and even that it is This is the most likely explanation.

… Or just interference?

It should be remembered that the existence of Proxima b has not yet been confirmed. To date, our instruments have indeed not been able to photograph the world.

And then there is the law of statistics. The Universe is vast and it is very likely that it gave birth to several intelligent civilizations. On the other hand, there is less chance that these civilizations have existed at the same time, and even less that they inhabit two neighboring systems and that they have also developed the same technology at the same time.

Not to mention that to date, this famous signal has only been detected once, between April and May.

Concretely, therefore, there is little chance that this signal is the result of a neighboring extraterrestrial civilization. But while waiting for a confirmation, nothing obviously prevents to dream a little.


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