Aliens astronomy Physics

Wow! Communications from little green men?

Several years ago (2010) I met an astronomer from Jodrell Banks radio telescope (one of the first big ones operated by the UK) and she told me the story of a signal being detected, which was thought to be from some intelligent alien source in the cosmos.

The signal was detected at 10.30 am every time. After some investigation, it turned out to be the microwave oven used to heat the muffins for morning tea. It was from an intelligent source after all, but not from space. Her anecdote sounds very similar to what was proven to have been the source of some anomalous signals at the Parkes radio telescope in Australia.

Perytons at Parkes

Figure 1: The Parkes radio telescope Credit: Diceman Stephen West (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Figure 1: The Parkes radio telescope
Credit: Diceman Stephen West (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons]
According to Simon Johnston, head of astrophysics at CSIRO, in 1998 the Parkes radio telescope began detecting some fast radio bursts and related signals named perytons once or twice a year. It was theorised that these may have been signals from another galaxy, or emissions from neutron stars becoming black holes, or just interference from lightning strikes. But in 2015 it was determined that perytons were detected by the Parkes telescope when staff opened the door of the microwave oven at the facility to heat their lunch.1

“ … 1 January [2015] they installed a new receiver which monitored interference, and detected strong signals at 2.4 GHz, the signature of a microwave oven.”1

Immediate testing of the facility microwave oven did not show up any perytons. Until, that is, they opened the oven door before it had finished heating. “If you set it to heat and pull it open to have a look, it generates interference,” Johnston said.

Problem solved! No signal there from ‘little green men’ either!

Prior to the installation of the new microwave oven, the old oven operated at 1.4 GHz and was the source of those spurious signals for a long time. 1.4 GHz is very close to the frequency of the 21 cm (8 in) wavelength signal astronomers very frequently look for as it comes from hydrogen atoms, which are common in space.

The Wow! signal

On 15 August 1977, radio astronomers using the Big Ear radio telescope at Ohio State University picked up a powerful signal from space. Some believed it was our first interception of an alien broadcast.

The signal—known as the “Wow! signal” after a note scribbled by astronomer Jerry Ehman, who detected it—came through at 1.420 GHz, corresponding to a wavelength of 21 cm (8 in). Searchers for extra-terrestrial transmissions have long considered it an auspicious place to look, as it is one of the main frequencies characteristic of hydrogen.2

Figure 2: Astronomer Jerry Ehman wrote Wow! On the print out when he was examining many potential signals for an intelligent source.
Figure 2: Astronomer Jerry Ehman wrote “Wow!” on the print out when he was examining many potential signals for an intelligent source.

This was a one-off and they never heard anything like it again. In this case it was determined that it did come from space and not some pesky microwave device. So ET was suspected.3 Now, astronomy Professor Antonio Paris thinks the signal might have come from one or more passing comets. He suspects two comets, called 266P/Christensen and P/2008 Y2 (Gibbs), which were not known in 1977. Others, however, are not so convinced.

Therefore to test his idea, Prof. Paris proposed to search the same region of space that Big Ear was pointing at when these comets return. They will transit the region on 25 January 2017, and on 7 January 2018, respectively. An analysis of the hydrogen signal of the comets should reveal if he is correct (I suspect he is).


These stories are only significant because of the evolutionary belief system, which says that if life evolved on earth it must also have evolved elsewhere in the cosmos. Mankind now has been searching for 50 years, fruitlessly, for a source of intelligence from the cosmos. But God the Creator has already revealed that He is the Intelligent Source from which life came, when He created Adam from the dust of the ground.


  1. M. Tan, Microwave oven to blame for mystery signal that left astronomers stumped,, May 5, 2015.
  2. Famous Wow! signal might have been from comets, not aliens, New Scientist, January 11, 2016.
  3. Forum: Wow! Was that ET?, New Scientist, August 9, 1997.

Comment added April 9, 2016

I’ve been thinking more about that Wow! signal.  I had previously thought that the string of characters represented an ASCII representation of a series of pulses.  However, after reading the Wikipedia article, I understand it is just an arbitrary encoding of amplitude to alphanumeric character that enabled a three-dimensional signal to be displayed easily on the 2-dimensional devices that were available at the time.  What they actually detected was just a large signal at (approximately) the hydrogen line.  Could have been caused by all sorts of things.  At best what they seem to have been able to conclude is that it did not originate on Earth — but, perhaps, this is also not definitive.

I think that the representation is quite misleading — it least it certainly mislead me.  It seems to suggest a real code, i.e. a sequence of different ‘characters’, which is clearly not the case.  Basically, they heard a loud noise and concluded that it must have been made because someone had cut down a tree with a chain saw, which, of course, means that the forest is inhabited by beings that know how to make and use chain saws.  It seems to me that if this had been made by an extraterrestrial intelligence that was trying to signal its presence, it would have constructed the signal to be obviously not natural — for example to be some non-random repeating pattern (although even this would not be definitive since we seen these from natural sources as well.  Of course, it is was really intelligent, it would probably not want its transmissions to be detected so would arrange for them to be in subspace (:-)) and and use a spread-spectrum transmission scheme to make the transmission disappear into the background.

Comment added June 10, 2017

The comets, P/2008 Y2(Gibbs) and 266/P Christensen appeared again in the night sky from November 2016 through February of 2017.

Wow! mystery signal from space finally explained
Location of the two comets shown on the sky by pink ellipses. Credit: The Center for Planetary Science

The team reports that radio signals from 266/P Christensen matched those from the Wow! signal 40 years ago. To verify their results, they tested readings from three other comets, as well, and found similar results. The researchers acknowledge that they cannot say with certainty that the Wow! signal was generated by 266/P Christensen, but they can say with relative assurance that it was generated by a comet.

Read more at:

By John Gideon Hartnett

Dr John G. Hartnett is an Australian physicist and cosmologist, and a Christian with a biblical creationist worldview. He received a B.Sc. (Hons) and Ph.D. (with distinction) in Physics from The University of Western Australia, W.A., Australia. He was an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award (DORA) fellow at the University of Adelaide, with rank of Associate Professor. Now he is retired. He has published more than 200 papers in scientific journals, book chapters and conference proceedings.

4 replies on “Wow! Communications from little green men?”

In the news only last week: “A planet is forming in an Earth-like orbit around a young star”

…before our eyes, and by nothing more than naturalistic processes it seems. Also very consistent with predictions from the standard protoplanetary disk model.

50 years of SETI using more or less primitive technology yields no results. So, are you guaranteeing no results for the indefinite future as well? Not that SETI is *remotely* the most significant threat to YEC cosmology. In what way is TW Hydrae fundamentally different from our solar system?


The example of the planetary disk of dust, gas and debris is much like other debris clouds found around stars. It is particularly very similar to the one also found by ALMA, which I discuss in A ‘PROTOPLANETARY SYSTEM’ IN FORMATION? It seems this is now the second of this type of object but no actual planets have actually been imaged in the gaps between the dust disks where the theory says they should form. There are many problems with naturalistic star formation and planet formation is essentially a byproduct of that alleged process. The latter is loaded with uniformitarian assumptions and we are told that time scale of the processes are so-long that to claim seeing it happen “before our eyes” may be overreaching somewhat.

I would not be surprised that many different planetary systems will be found, in different alleged stages of ‘evolution’ of a proto-solar system. But it is more akin to discovering fossils in the sediments and claiming a contiguous evolutionary history from the fragments than observing ‘evolution in action’ as Richard Dawkins once put it. And as far as discovering sentient life on another planet I do predict it will never happen, but as recently stated I do not rule out life per se. The Bible does not prohibit some forms of ‘lower’life. But whatever life is ‘out there’ it won’t be intelligent soul-filled type of life. That I am sure of. And if every discovered—some jellyfish or something—it was created with all other life during the creation by God at the beginning, it never arose spontaneously, nor did it evolve by mutation and natural selection to become some ‘higher’ lifeform.

One way TW Hydrae fundamentally differs from our solar system is the existence of planets, and planets in the right place, size and mass, and liquid water-bearing at the right distance from the central star. Another fundamental way it differs is that our solar system has a planet Earth teeming with life, sentient life, that was able to make images of the TW Hydrae ‘proto-planetary’ system, if that is what it is.


I’m hardly alone in “overreaching” if you’re bold enough to deny the very POSSIBILITY of alien intelligence! That’s an extravagant claim to say the least.

You must be conscious of the fact that until 1988, we didn’t know of a single exoplanet. Are you further guaranteeing that no planets will EVER be found in these gaps, no matter how the instruments improve? You must also know that occultation techniques at least are not available where we observe the disk face on. It’s no surprise we have yet to detect the planets themselves.

Your “fundamental” differences between TW Hydrae and our solar system are nothing of the kind. You cannot say at this time that TW Hydrae has no planets, nor whether the one thought to be forming at ~1AU will support life or not.

You make the bald assertion that Population III Stars have NOT in fact been detected. Still more hostages to fortune you’re creating there. A prediction of my own: explaining away observations from JWST and other new instruments coming on stream is really going to take some doing!

And it seems the whole of modern biology (not to say geology, archaeology, genomics, biogeography, geochronology etc etc) is all a grand hoax too! “…loaded with uniformitarian assumptions” is just longhand for “unbiblical”. As if any “assumptions” at all are only discernible to brave outsiders! Your own language is loaded to the point of being unscientific. This Bible Science Forum is an exercise in theology, not science. I repeat: not even the devout Newton or Kepler derived a single scientific insight from Scripture. Their every breakthrough was entirely a description of natural processes.


I do not deny alien intelligence, only it will not/does not come from any planet beyond Earth. I am not meaning to be funny but non-terrestrial intelligent life does exist but it is not in the form of sentient beings on other planets but instead angels and demons from the spiritual dimension and they do regularly appear in this plane. They have been photographed in space above Earth, on the moon and in our atmosphere.

I have no doubt that many more exoplanets will be discovered. And it does not matter if planets are found in the gaps in those alleged ‘proto-planetary’ systems. I don’t argue that at all. I only meant to point out that no planet has yet been seen in the TW Hydrae system. Believing one is there is not the same as observing it. However, as I say that is really not the issue. The issue is that stars and planetary systems do not form naturalistically. Whatever is observed to exist is the product of the laws of physics working on the initial created universe. The star formation model is seriously lacking in many ways, and as a result dark matter is invoked to overcome the deficit, but that is just a ‘god of the gaps’. As for planetary system formation, there remains insurmountable problems for any naturalistic uniformitarian processes. See Planetary system formation: exposing naturalistic storytelling.

Even if some stars are eventually identified with zero metal content—hence could be called Population III stars—and even then if a galaxy of Pop. III stars was found, it still would not prove the big bang, because it may be evidence of a prediction in favour of the big bang but it is not sufficient of itself (the fallacy of affirming the consequent). You would have to prove no other model could account for it. So I look forward to the JWST. I believe it will bring more anomalies than it solves. Already we read of a galaxy too bright too soon after the alleged big bang (the latest GN-z11 at a redshift of 11.1).

Isaac Newton believed the biblical creation account. He based his worldview on it. He had no reason to doubt it though there were uniformitarian worldviews in his day. He believed in absolutes, contrary to Greek pagan thinking. Newton conceived time as absolute and universal which “flows equably without relation to anything external”. He saw the laws of physics as the creation of God. Newton said that he was searching for the way God made the Universe, in the laws of physics. “The True God is a living, intelligent, and powerful being: His duration reaches from eternity to eternity.”

He believed, as I do also, that the Creator superintended His own creation, and that He was not part of it, but extant to it and transcended our notion of time. Newton also held that those fundamental and perfect laws of nature are real and immutable, i.e. they do not change with time. That view is biblical I contend but it is contrary to what many physicists would believe today. See An essay: It’s about time.

It is impossible to divorce your worldview—belief system—from your research. One’s worldview is the framework in which one interprets all evidence. It does not interpret itself and so we all have bias—like it or not. Even if you claim no belief in a Creator you still have a bias/a worldview. In such a case your worldview is naturalistic materialism. It is assumed and cannot be proven. See We all have a worldview.


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