“To those gallantly optimistic astronomers out there toiling beneath the Flag of Earth, we offer somewhat tardy felicitations for a significant anniversary in the obscure annals of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). It was 28 years ago when Dr. Jerry Ehman witnessed the reception of the “WOW! signal,” perhaps the most famous and mysteriously compelling astronomic evidence ever gathered by SETI in its quest to prove the existence of intelligent life outside the bounds of our planet.
Working as a volunteer at Ohio State University’s now-defunct “Big Ear” radio telescope observatory, Ehman’s assignment was to observe the paper printout of the Big Ear’s signal sweep of the heavens. On Aug. 15, 1977, Ehman saw the esoteric code 6EQUJ5 appear on the printout, and he quickly circled it and scribbled “WOW!” in the paper’s margin.
What caught Ehman’s eye was a radio pulse from outer space—one with sufficient intensity and duration to suggest that it was neither a naturally occurring phenomenon nor a reflection of an errant terrestrial source, such as a misguided communications satellite or a surface transmission reflected off orbital debris.”
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