Ohio State University’s Big Ear radio telescope – April 15, 1977. Astronomer Jerry Ehman listened to cosmic static from star systems Chi Sagittarii in constellation Sagittarius. At 10:16 pm Eastern Time Big Ear recorded an inexplicable 72 second burst of radio waves – Ehman circled the anomaly, jotting “Wow!”. 39 years later the strongest cosmic radio signal ever recorded, remains the only unexplained radio signal from space.
Enter former U.S. Dept. of Defense analyst Antonio Paris, now of St. Petersburg College in Florida. Paris suspects two “suspicious” comets (266P/Christensen and 335P/Gibbs, not identified until 2006 and 2008) created the “Wow!” kerfuffle. 1420Mhz is the radio frequency behind Ehman’s “Wow!” Coincidentally, the same frequency neutral hydrogen hums in the cosmos (space is anything but silent – click now to listen http://spaceweatherradio.com/ ) Logically comets contain a lot of hydrogen, hydrogen Paris theorizes wreaked havoc at 1420Mhz the evening of April 15, 1977. “Wow!”, nothing more than an inadvertent surge of hydrogen courtesy of meddling comets.
Next year 266P will pass Chi Sagittarii, 2018 sees 335P’s orbit following suit. Paris hopes to test his theory but faces some challenges – it seems all radio telescopes are booked. Undaunted, Paris started a crowd funding campaign to buy or build his own telescope. (Linked below)
In wonder of “Wow!”, the possibility of noisy hydrogen annihilating a cornerstone of early cosmic wonder left me a little grumpy. No worries, it took 6 minutes to grow up and jump on science’s band wagon. Kick discovery ass Antonio Paris of St. Petersburg College, I wish you well.
The eve of Dec. 21 seemed an appropriate time to toss a death star into the mix. Tomorrow’s solstice just happens to coincide with an extremely rare galactic alignment. Every 25,800 years the sun and earth align with the centre of the” Milky Way”. It just so happens that the pesky constellation Sagittarius is part of the equation. Sagittarius; smack dab in the middle of the alignment, harbours some serious pondering.
The fact that Sagittarius is my sign has nothing to do with its mystery.
Sagittarius just so happens to end up in the spot light. For starters, the only unconfirmed radio signal from space, known as the “wow event” came from Sagittarius. Sagittarius is front and centre in the “galactic alignment”, and it happens to be the place WR 104 resides.
WR 104 is 8000 light years from earth. Discovered in 1998, it is actually 2 binary stars locked in orbit with each other. Known as a Wolf-Rayet system, WR 104 capable of causing serious trouble. Wolf-Rayet (WR) stars are on their last leg; burning thousands of times hotter and faster than our sun, they hurtle towards an inevitable super nova.
Aside from the black hole created when a star collapses, the nasty Gamma Ray Burst (GRB) is of greater concern. Picture a death ray of radiation obliterating anything in its path. A GRB would destroy our ozone layer; earth would be defenceless against cosmic radiation.
Scientists debate our chances of being at the receiving end of WR 104’s wrath. They all agree that earth has most likely experienced GRB’s in the past. Either way; rather than disappoint the doomsday set when the Mayan prediction turned out to be a bust – ponder the death star. As my son once said – “there’s a million ways to die out there”.