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12 Aug, 2008 07:53

Aliens calling? Signals detected from beyond Solar System

Aliens calling? Signals detected from beyond Solar System

Scientists in South Africa have detected radio signals from beyond the solar system for the first time – prompting a wave of excitement over who, or what, might have sent it. The signal is the most significant of its kind since radio telescopes

The discovery was made by the Indlebe Radio Telescope at Durban’s Technology University.

A strong radio signal, possibly of alien origin, was detected at around 21:14 local time on July 28. It came from Sagittarius A, the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy, approximately 30,000 light years away.

The received data will shortly be made available to experts who can use it to create a graph.

Project leader Stuart MacPherson said he and his students were amazed when they realised the telescope had picked up a signal.

“We had made significant changes to the receiver to increase its sensitivity,” he said. “When we went in that morning to check the data, we found that it had detected a source. It’s unbelievable. It’s definitely a great relief for us because now we know that the radio telescope works.”
However, as the hardware used in the radio telescope has been designed by students and constructed on campus, the receipt of the signal still needs confirmation.

The Indlebe project, which takes it name from the Zulu for ‘ear’, was initiated in 2006. It uses a highly sensitive radio receiver to detect extra terrestrial radio sources.