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August 30, 2016

Scientists at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence—SETI—are investigating “a strong signal” detected by a Russian radio telescope.

The signal appears to be coming from the star HD164595, which is part of the Hercules constellation, located about 95 light years from Earth, which is practically next door in space terms.

The star is 99 percent of the size of Earth’s own sun, according to The Guardian, and has at least one planet, HD164595b, which is comparable to the size of Neptune, but with a warmer climate. As the Observer noted, many star watchers believe there could be other planets still undetected in the Herculean system.

The Russian radio telescope, located in Zelenchukskaya, Russia, apparently detected the interesting signal back in May of 2015, but did not alert SETI or the public to the anomaly. (Perhaps they had just watched “E.T.” and were concerned about how earthlings would take the news?)

Scientists are taking a cautionary approach to the news. Some are pointing out that the Russian radio that picked up the signal wasn’t equipped to determine if the sound came from intelligent life. Even some SETI researchers don’t find the news all that interesting.

“Because the receivers used were making broad band measurements, there's really nothing about this "signal" that would distinguish it from a natural radio transient (stellar flare, active galactic nucleus, microlensing of a background source, etc.),” wrote Berkeley SETI astronomer Eric Korpela. “All in all, it's relatively uninteresting from a SETI standpoint.”

However, if the sound is repeated, astrophysicists may start losing their cool a little bit.

Meanwhile, some scientists were willing to make their excitement public.

“The power of the signal received is not unrealistic for type I civilizations,” said Claudio Maccone, of the University of Turin in Italy, according to The Guardian. A “type I civilization” roughly translates to having similar technology to that on Earth.

While the search for intelligent life beyond Earth continues, you don't have to wait to put on some David Bowie and Netflix a Jodie Foster classic.

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