W is for the WOW Signal (A to Z Blogging Challenge)
The Wow! signal was a strong narrowband radio signal detected by Dr. Jerry R. Ehman on August 15, 1977, while working on a SETI project at the Big Ear radio telescope of The Ohio State University then located at Ohio Wesleyan University’s Perkins Observatory, Delaware, Ohio. The signal bore expected hallmarks of potential non-terrestrial and non-Solar System origin. It lasted for the full 72-second duration that Big Ear observed it, but has not been detected again. The signal has been the subject of significant media attention.
Amazed at how closely the signal matched the expected signature of an interstellar signal in the antenna used, Ehman circled the signal on the computer printout and wrote the comment “Wow!” on its side. This comment became the name of the signal.
The location of the signal in the constellation Sagittarius, near the Chi Sagittarii star group. Because of the design of the experiment, the location may lie in either one of the two red bands, and there is also significant uncertainty in the declination (vertical axis). For clarity, the widths of the red bands are not drawn to scale; they should actually be narrower.
The Big Ear telescope was fixed and used the rotation of the Earth to scan the sky. At the speed of the Earth’s rotation, and given the width of the Big Ear’s observation “window”, the Big Ear could observe any given point for just 72 seconds. A continuous extraterrestrial signal, therefore, would be expected to register for exactly 72 seconds, and the recorded intensity of that signal would show a gradual peaking for the first 36 seconds—until the signal reached the center of Big Ear’s observation “window”— and then a gradual decrease.
Therefore, both the length of the Wow! signal, 72 seconds, and the shape of the intensity graph may correspond to a possible extraterrestrial origin.
However, the signal has not been detected again.