Such Strong. Much SNR. Wow!

Kraus (1979) is about telling the story of the discovery of the Wow! Signal, arguably the strongest candidate for an ETI transmission detected.

The Ohio State University Radio Observatory holds the record for the longest ET search ever performed. Non-SETI whole sky radio surveys in started in 1965, but funding was cut abruptly in 1972 leaving a world-class telescope unable to perform large-scale operations. At this point, it was decided to use a previously-built detector to try to look for ETI signals in the “waterhole”. A couple upgrades and a lot of unpaid student and volunteer work later, the radio telescope was running ~full-time on a routine SETI program.

In August of 1977, the search paid off with the detection of a transient, celestial signal that caused discoverer Jerry Ehman to exclaim “Wow!” in the margins of the data print-out. Even though the same region of the sky was searched for weeks afterward, no new signals were found.

The article reads weirdly like an underdog sports story. I’m sure the back of the book would read something like “No funding, no precedent, and no excuses. Can these scrappy buckeyes go against all odds and find the interstellar connection that many believe impossible?”. This does make sense though as this is a magazine article, not a research paper.

Some obvious next steps (for the follow-up article, of course) would be to see if this region of the sky had been observed since then and report back either on the tragic lack of signal or the tragic lack of observation.