Back in 1977 Astronomer Jerry Ehman was using the Ohio State University’s Big Ear Radio Telescope sweeping for potential signals from alien civilizations. While monitoring the skies he came across a very powerful signal that lasted for exactly 72 seconds coming from the area of Chi Sagittarii. Dubbed the WOW signal because he circled the numbers and letters on a printed readout and wrote Wow! next to it.
Unfortunately, no recording of the WOW signal exists, only a series of numbers and letters on a sheet of paper indicating signal strength. Much research has been done on the WOW signal and it was determined that it did in fact come from an extraterrestrial source. The rub is that we have never been able to observe the signal since.
Later Professor Antonio Paris who is associated with the St. Petersburg College in Florida decided to revisit the “cold case” by going through various databases to find potential suspects that could have caused these radio waves. Paris thinks he may have found the source, or potential sources, in the form of Comets.
According to Paris, 266P/Chistensen and 335P/Gibbs were in the area of Chi Sagittarii on the day of the WOW signal. Paris believes that one or both of these comets may have been cause of the powerful Radio Signals. This explanation seems to line up with the fact that the WOW signal was detected at the 1420MHz frequency which is generally associated with hydrogen elements. Comets are generally thought to contain large amounts of hydrogen and thus could explain the signal.
266P/Christensen passed through Chi Sagittarii again in January of 2017 and it was determined that this comet does in fact emit radio waves at the specified frequencies, although there is some debate on whether or not this could have truly caused such a powerful spike.
While I agree with the science of 266P/Christensen emitting radio signals I do not believe that this could have been overlooked in 1977. After finding the signal Ehrman attempted to relocate the signal by scanning this portion of the sky once again. Comets, especially at this distance, travel relatively slowly to our perspective and I believe that Ehrman would have been able to locate the signal, in a different portion of the sky rather easily.
I would like to propose an alternative solution. Recently astronomers have discovered over 200 stars that have signals traversing between one another. So far this phenomenon has not been adequately explained. My proposal is that we traveled through one of these beams between stars and caught a glimpse of this signal.
If you wanted to communicate across the galaxy you would need to tightly compact your signal into a beam so it held its strength across space. Simply radiating that signal means anyone, in any direction, could hear the signal. Think about it as a ripple in a pond. If you drop a stone in the middle, the waves radiate outward in all directions equally providing nothing inhibits their movement or redirects them.
To me, it makes sense that an advanced civilization would understand this concept and utilize it to their advantage. It also allows for a more secure form of communication. Instead of broadcasting to everyone, you instead target a specific location in space and send. Anyone outside of the “beam” would not even be aware of the communication taking place.
To summarize, I believe we passed through one of these beams and accidentally stumbled across a discovery that took another 30 years to formalize. It explains why we cannot locate the signal now and why we have not come across another signal since. I believe that if we calculate our location in space at the time of the signal and sent a probe to that location, we would find the signal once again, assuming it is still broadcasting at the source.