Targets of Interest

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Targets of Interest

At first glance, Gliese 913 is a pretty average star system. It’s a binary — two stars that travel through space together, bound by gravity. The main star is smaller, fainter, and cooler than the Sun. And its companion is even more modest.

But when astronomers listened, Gliese 913 got a lot more interesting. A recent analysis of its radio waves found two signals that could be of intelligent origin. But a follow-up session heard nothing. So no one knows whether the signals came from another civilization, or from here on Earth.

The study was conducted by Breakthrough Listen, a major search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Its astronomers are using large radio telescopes to scan millions of stars.

They recently used a technique known as machine learning to analyze observations of more than 800 of those stars. The computers found about three million interesting signals. But a detailed look showed that almost all of them came from Earth — from satellites, cell phones, or other sources.

But eight signals, from five stars, stayed interesting — including the two from Gliese 913. So astronomers listened to the stars again. This time, they didn’t hear anything unusual. So they can’t rule out any possible origin — natural, terrestrial, or extra-terrestrial.

Gliese 913 is in the constellation Andromeda, which is in the northeast at nightfall. But you need a telescope to see this intriguing star system.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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