Yesterday, Science and Technology Daily, a state-backed media outlet in China, published what could have been an exciting piece of news: Researchers recorded radio signals that looked like evidence of extraterrestrial technology. Rogue blips from an advanced alien civilization made their way to Earth? Well, probably not, because the twist here isn’t that we may have found aliens; it’s that Science and Technology Daily quickly pulled the story from its website, Bloomberg reported.
The reported observations came from the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), nicknamed Sky Eye, in China, according to the article from Science and Technology Daily, which was re-uploaded on WeChat. The telescope is a 500-meter (1,640-foot) dish, the largest radio telescope in the world.
The article, via Google Translate, reads:
A few days ago, Professor Zhang Tongjie, chief scientist of the China Extraterrestrial Civilization Research Group of the Department of Astronomy and Extraterrestrial Civilization Research Group of Beijing Normal University, revealed that his team used the “Chinese Sky Eye” to discover several cases of possible technological traces and extraterrestrial civilizations from outside the earth... Zhang Tongjie said that these are several narrow-band electromagnetic signals different from the past, and the team is currently working on further investigation.
...in 2020, the team discovered two groups of suspicious signals of extraterrestrial civilizations during the data processing of the “China Sky Eye” 2019 synchronic sky survey observations. In 2022, the team found another suspicious signal from exoplanet target observation data.
“The possibility that the suspicious signal is some kind of radio interference is also very high, and it needs to be further confirmed and ruled out. This may be a long process.” Zhang Tongjie said...
Indeed, whatever the signals were (and, for now, we have no information about them), it’s most likely that they come from a natural phenomenon or interference from human technology. That said, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) is an important one, which is why the scientists should share what data they have, so that the larger research community can investigate these supposed “candidate signals” fully.
This wouldn’t be the first time astronomers have picked up radio signals that they couldn’t immediately explain. A mysterious outburst from Proxima Centauri was recorded in 2019 by researchers in the Breakthrough Listen project. The signal lasted hours and was picked up by a telescope at the CSIRO Parkes Observatory in Australia. Two years later, astronomers determined the signal was likely emitted from Earth in a way that fooled the telescope. In 2018, Canadian researchers caught a fast-radio burst that was probably an emission from a certain kind of neutron star. A rogue signal in 2015 was even traced back to a microwave.
Unlike the recent Congressional hearings on UFOs, SETI is a rigorous scientific endeavor that relies on transparent data collection, peer review, and heaping doses of skepticism. It’s not clear why this recent report from China was shared and then deleted, but we look forward to learning more about these apparent signals and what might have caused them.