Extraterrestrial signal detected? Real, phantom, or deception?

An Australian scientist has announced that he has detected a signal from an alien world. No, this isn’t a trailer for the next alien invasion flick and, yes, he’s serious. When an announcement was made that scientists had discovered a new extrasolar planet (one that’s in a different solar system than ours) that appears to be situated in its system’s “habitable zone,” astronomer Ragbir Bhathal piped up about a “suspicious pulse of light” he’d discovered roughly 2 years ago that he says came from the same part of the galaxy as the new planet.

The recent discovery of Gliese 581g, an alien planet in the habitable zone of another star, has been an exciting development for scientists probing the galaxy for signs of extraterrestrial life. At least one claim of a possible signal from the planet has already surfaced – and been met with harsh skepticism among the science community.

Following the Sept. 29 announcement of the discovery of Gliese 581g, astronomer Ragbir Bhathal, a scientist at the University of Western Sydney, claimed to have detected a suspicious pulse of light nearly two years ago, that came from the same area of the galaxy as the location of Gliese 581g, according to the U.K.’s Daily Mail online.

Sounds at least interesting, doesn’t it? We detect an anomalous signal from a particular part of space and now we detect a planet that sits in the right spot in its system for life as we know it to exist. Perhaps we’ve finally discovered an alien civilization? Not so fast:

Still, there are some scientists who are skeptical of Bhathal’s assertion.

“I know the scientist, and when he first announced it, I asked him for the details, and he wouldn’t send them to me,” astronomer and SETI pioneer Frank Drake told SPACE.com. “I’m very suspicious.”

Yeah, I would be, too. This is just more of the same kind of crap we’ve been seeing out of so-called “scientists” for the past several years. True science depends on transparency and the ability of independent parties to confirm the data and verify any conclusions made. When you see people making pronouncements of scientific discovery or proof of this or that phenomenon while refusing to allow anyone to see their data, you should take whatever they say with a serious dose of salt.

There’s no issue, I would think, in directing some time and energy into scanning that part of sky quite carefully for any kind signals, be they pulses of light or EM spectrum. However, if Mr. Bhathal would like anyone to take him seriously, he needs to pony up all the info and let us all see what he did.

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