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What Is Ross 128 - And Why Are Alien Fanatics Getting Excited?

One News Page Staff Friday, 21 July 2017
What Is Ross 128 - And Why Are Alien Fanatics Getting Excited?by 👨‍💻 Graham Pierrepoint

Another day, and it seems – another glimpse at potential life in the outer reaches of the universe. After all, it is still a rather hard concept to grasp – that planet Earth could be the only orb in the entire galaxy – or even universe – that has been able to host intelligent life. Short of a few fossil-like findings on Mars, there’s been considerable movements to try and find little green men in the years since the space race really kicked off – but to many people, the fact that we still haven’t made contact with intelligent beings from elsewhere is all the more baffling.

This week, it appears that odd signals being picked up from a red dwarf 11 light years away from Earth have become the catalyst for more speculation as to potential movements elsewhere in the universe – as a Puerto Rican observatory picked up very strange readings that suggested something was amiss close to the star in question. Planetary Habitability Laboratory director Abel Mendez – operating on behalf of the University of Puerto Rico – advised online that ‘broadband quasi-periodic non-polarized pulses with very strong dispersion-like features’ had been spotted emitting from Ross 128, the red dwarf in question.

Mendez elaborates that the pulses seem to be unique to Ross 128 – and that local interference is not to blame for what could have been an anomaly. Further to this, Mendez suggests that the 10-minute observation of the star’s pulses were unlike any of those portrayed by stars in recent history. This news, of course, has been picked up by some as a suggestion that something mysterious is lurking in an outer reach of the universe – but science, unfortunately for theorists, appears to suggest three other more likely scenarios in play.

It’s thought that the star may be giving off certain emissions – ones such as a Type II solar flare which are not uncommon to dwarves of this size and nature – or that it could be picking up interference from a satellite. Alternatively, other stars nearby could be giving off emissions – and therefore setting the readings off.

Whatever the explanation may be – sadly, it is not time to get too excited just yet about meeting aliens. For now, at least, we can store our ‘welcome to our planet’ speeches away – but for how much longer? Are we truly alone in the universe – or are we a unique miracle of science?

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