Auditory Clues to Extraterrestrial Visits – Part II

In an effort to “set up” a discussion of auditory clues to extraterrestrial visits, Hearing International may have gone beyond the bounds of international and into the world of interplanetary fiction.  While there are a myriad of hoaxes and Internet scams related to the ancient aliens and UFO topics, there seem, however, to be at least some credible archaeological efforts to explain the strange artifacts, writings, and monumental building projects of ancient civilization.    While most of these ancient stories and suggestions of visits from ancient astronauts may seem like coincidence, bad science or simply concocted to most of us, some of these encounters are definitely interesting …..and they offer auditory clues!.

NASA Mission STS 29

If there were encounters to be had with extraterrestrials it is logical that over the years our astronauts would have been the ones most likely to have them.  In addition to the weird music of the Saturn probe described last week, one of the plausible “encounters” seems to be the NASA Discovery Mission STS 29 which flew from March 13-18, 1989.  This mission’s etII1primary objectives were to orbit a Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, perform science experiments, and take more than 3000 photographs of the earth’s surface from space.  Photographic equipment included a 70mm IMAX motion picture camera.  The crew was Commander Michael L. Coats and Pilot John E. Blaha, and three mission specialists.  During this mission, there was communication between Houston and Discovery recorded by an amateur radio operator, Ken Welch, that seems to describe an encounter with an alien spacecraft.  While this was not reported as part of the mission itself, the recording seems to suggest that the crew encountered something that they could not explain.

Indeed, in the communications they called it an “alien spacecraft” (click on the picture for the auditory clues).  If this ham radio pickup is legitimate, Commander Coates must have seen and communicated to Houston about something strange during this flight.  Of course, it may have been reflections of lights from Earth, space junk, space ice or a myriad of other things that could seem rather strange and have nothing to do with aliens.  If it really happened, the “encounter” was never communicated to the general public and is not part of the NASA record for Mission STS 29. There have been other “sightings” of UFOs on the NASA space shuttle such as Mission STS 80 in 1996.  While there are lots of posts and videos on the Internet about a video from this mission, these “sightings” have now been discredited by the mission specialist that shot the video.


It is difficult to determine the validity of most of these sounds.  There must be hundreds of so-called “recordings of alien setII2ounds” on the Internet from just about everywhere in the world. While most of these appear to be something strange, they also seem to be fabricated.  Some of these recordings are obviously created rather than recorded, some by professionals, other by amateurs.  If interested in creating a strange recording that “proves” aliens exist, you can find some great alien sound effects at Sound Bible. This site has just about any sound that you may want. Just add some jiggly video and some OMGs, oos and ahs and, presto, you too can prove that aliens exist!

But what of the real recordings?….are there really any documented?  Among the most credible sounds of the heavens is the so-called etII3WOW!” sound that came from Big Ear Radio Telescope, which was located in Delaware, Ohio but part of Ohio State University.  On August 15, 1977 Dr. Jerry R. Ehman, an American astronomer, detected what might very well be a signal from an extraterrestrial intelligence. The WOW! signal was a strong narrow-band radio signal detected by Dr. Ehman while working for SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). It was so startling to find such a strong signal in the band that an extraterrestrial intelligence was expected to use that he wrote “Wow!” on the computer print out right next to the signal. (Click on the WOW! image for a discussion video.)  The signal itself originated from the constellation Sagittarius at a frequency of 1420 MHz. This number is significant for SETI because they reason that hydrogen is the most common element in the universe. Hydrogen resonates at about 1420 MHz, so extraterrestrials may use that frequency to transmit a strong signal. The signal bore expected hallmarks of potential non-terrestrial and etII4non-Solar System origin. It lasted for the full 72-second duration that Big Ear observed it, but has not been detected again. The signal has been the subject of significant media attention.  Eighteen years earlier, two Cornell physicists, Philip Morrison and Giuseppe Cocconi, had tried to imagine how an intelligent alien civilization might try to signal Earth. We should look, they said, for a radio transmission. Radio waves are cheap to produce, don’t require much energy and travel vast distances across space.  Cocconi and Morrison guessed that the aliens would choose a frequency that would mean something to creatures who know math and chemistry. Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe. Zap a hydrogen atom and it will resonate at a particular rate: 1420 megahertz (MHz). So look, they said, for a signal coming in at 1420 MHz. And look for something loud, something that would catch our attention.

etII5And on Aug. 15, the exact day Elvis died, in the communication came exactly as predicted by Cocconi and Morrison.  What Dr Ehman saw was, yes, a radio signal and, yes, a radio signal very, very close to 1420 MHz (it was 1420.4556). It lasted 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. It was loud. And the transmission had the shape that Cocconi and Morrison had predicted. If you look at this printout, you will see this sequence of letters and numbers: 6EQUJ5.   According to science writer Michael Brooks, “The letters and numbers are, essentially, a measure of the intensity of the electromagnetic signal as it hit the receiver. Low power was recorded with numbers 0 to 9; as power got higher, the computer used letters: 10 was A, 11 was B and so on.” So by the time you get to the last letters of the alphabet, you are getting a very powerful signal.  Wow! has tantalized scientists by evading almost every suggestion put forth to explain it. Astronomers explain the significance of the WOW! by the following points:

1.  The frequency range is protected; nobody on Earth is allowed to transmit on that frequency.etII6

2.  The signal did not come from an aircraft or spacecraft passing overhead, because the signal was consistent with a point in the sky that  was not moving.

3.  No known planets or asteroids were in a position to have reflected the signal toward Earth.

4.  Space debris would have had to be absolutely still in space relative to the Big Ear Radio Telescope, which is unlikely, and not tumbling, which is also unlikely.

5.  Even complicated astronomical effects like gravitational lensing and interstellar scintillation (basically twinkling like that which we observe stars doing visually) have technical reasons that make them very poor candidates to explain Wow!

There are recordings of the WOW! sound on the Internet but, reportedly, they are a hoax, as the Big Ear Radio Telescope did not record the etII7sound–it simply recorded its signature–and he sound has never been heard again!  Astronomers conclude that an alien intelligence is still a candidate explanation for the Wow! signal. But there’s no solid evidence for this and stronger candidate is the significantly more vague explanation of an interstellar radio source of unknown origin.

A radio transmission from a point in space in the direction of Sagittarius still remains the best technical explanation for Wow!  Dr. Jerry Ehman, the astronomer who found the signal, has written recently that he chooses not to draw “vast conclusions from half-vast data”.

Next week Hearing International will look at some ancient artifacts and their possible auditory implications………..


About Robert Traynor

Robert M. Traynor, Ed.D., MBA is the CEO and practicing audiologist at Audiology Associates, Inc., in Greeley, Colorado with particular emphasis in amplification and operative monitoring, offering all general audiological services to patients of all ages. Dr. Traynor holds degrees from the University of Northern Colorado (BA, 1972, MA 1973, Ed.D., 1975), the University of Phoenix (MBA, 2006) as well as Post Doctoral Study at Northwestern University (1984). He taught Audiology at the University of Northern Colorado (1973-1982), University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (1976-77) and Colorado State University (1982-1993). Dr. Traynor is a retired Lt. Colonel from the US Army Reserve Medical Service Corps and currently serves as an Adjunct Professor of Audiology at the University of Florida, the University of Colorado, and the University of Northern Colorado. For 17 years he was Senior International Audiology Consultant to a major hearing instrument manufacturer traveling all over the world providing academic audiological and product orientation for distributors and staff. A clinician and practice manager for over 35 years, Dr. Traynor has lectured on most aspects of the field of Audiology in over 40 countries. Dr. Traynor is the current President of the Colorado Academy of Audiology and co-author of Strategic Practice Management a text used in most universities to train audiologists in practice management, now being updated to a 2nd edition.