One night in 1977, Ohio radio astronomers discovered a strong, interstellar signal that many argue could be the best evidence of communication from an extraterrestrial civilization or aliens. It is known as the ‘Wow! Signal’ , because of a note left by the astronomer looking over the computer results.
In the documentary, director Bob Dawson talks to people associated with the Wow! signal and it is an interesting view on the scientific work of the group and excitement generated by the discovery.
The publicity for the documentary shows a flying saucer descending on a radio telescope. Nothing of the sort happens in the film. it is a serious and restrained work.
It is a charming documentary, but is not a satisfying one. The best sections are the early one dealing with the history of the telescope.
Some of the ideas associated with radio astronomy are not discussed well. There is just not enough material to keep it going over the time period of one and a half hours. When we get to a delightful teenager making lovely dolls for a gift shop, it is time for the documentary maker to say they are just padding out.
It would have been good to further explore alternative explanations of the Wow! Signal. Antonio Paris – an adjunct professor of astronomy at St. Petersburg College, Florida and ex-analyst of the U.S. Department of Defense – suggested that the famous 1977 Wow! signal was most likely generated by a comet.
Paris later admitted that it is not certain that the Wow! signal was generated by Comet 266/P Christensen; however, his team concluded that the 1977 Wow! signal was a natural phenomenon generated by a comet. The documentary needed to consider this in more depth.
The documentary concludes with the need for greater resources to be put into the search for extra-terrestrial life in the Universe. (SETI). It is hard to disagree with the idea.
Like any scientific research, the Wow! signal needs to be duplicated to have any validity. At the moment, the results are tantalising but nothing more. There were some doors in this documentary that could have been opened, but they remained shut.