Which part of the sky did the famous 'wow' signal originate from? (Intermediate)

Which part of the sky did the famous 'wow' signal originate from in 1977 by The Big Ear Radio Telescope in Ohio?

I looked up the astronomical coordinates of the "Wow" signal in a journal article where astronomers were describing their efforts to monitor the location in hopes of seeing another "event". There are actually two possible locations, because the Ohio State University radio telescope observed in two directions simultaneously. The difference in radio intensity between each of these directions was printed by the computer, but the computer did not print which of the two beams had the stronger signal. So basically, the signal has a declination of –27° 3m (plus or minus 20m) while the right ascension can be either 19h22m22s or 19h25m12s depending which of the two locations it was at. (In case you don't know, declination is similar to latitude in the sky and is measured in degrees, minutes of arc, and seconds of arc, while right ascension is like longitude and is measured in hours, minutes, and seconds of time. I'm not sure what your background is, but in case you're an amateur astronomer, these coordinates are in old B1950 coordinates. This doesn't matter at all unless you need to point a telescope at the exact location.)

So where is this in the sky? Both positions are in the constellation Sagittarius, which is the same constellation that contains the galactic center, although the "wow" signal didn't come exactly from the center. The two positions are close enough to each other that for casual viewing it doesn't much matter that they are different. If you want to look up where they are on a star map, the locations are slightly northwest of the globular cluster M55. If you've ever seen the constellation of Sagittarius in the sky, the constellation stars form a shape like a teapot, and the "wow" signal came from a region to the east of the handle of the teapot. Neither location lines up with any stars as far as we can tell.

This page was last updated Jun 27, 2015.

About the Author

Lynn Carter

Lynn uses radar astronomy to study the planets, especially Venus. She got her PhD in Astronomy from Cornell in Summer 2004 and is now working at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. on the Mars Express radar.

Share This Page

Share This

Most Popular


Our Reddit AMAs

AMA = Ask Me (Us) Anything