A recent story in the Columbus Dispatch, The Day the Aliens Called Jerry Ehman, recounts the story of the unusual space signal that was picked up by the Ohio State University’s Big Ear radio observatory in Delaware on August 7, 1977. Jerry Ehman was monitoring the Big Ear when the signal came through and wrote “Wow!” on the computer print out. To this day no one is really sure what the signal meant, but the possibility that it was intelligent life has never been proven or disproven. The original print out is preserved in the Ohio Historical Society Archives. It is part of the North American Astrophysical Observatory Records, call number MSS 1151.

Original print out of the mysterious WOW! signal.

This collection is available to researchers in the Archives/Library reading room during open hours. What is the meaning of “6EQUJ5” ? Everyone is welcome to develop their own theory!

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7 Responses to WOW!

  1. herda says:

    Nice work! great blog

  2. Hi OHS,

    The sequence 6EQUJ5 is actually the measure of intensity of the signal within the 72 second window that the radio telescope monitored any given portion of the sky. Here is an explanation from a site dedicated to history the radio telescope:

    Thus, the “6EQUJ5” code in channel 2 means successive intensities as follows:
    6 –> the range 6.0 – 6.999…
    E –> the range 14.0 – 14.999…
    Q –> the range 26.0 – 26.999…
    U –> the range 30.0 – 30.999…
    J –> the range 19.0 – 19.999…
    5 –> the range 5.0 – 5.999…


  3. Chad says:

    Was this ever reported in the media during that time? If so, when and what publication?

    • ohiohistory says:


      OHS holds a large collections of newspapers on microfilm and hard copy from all over Ohio. You are welcome to visit our research room and look for news coverage of the WOW! signal. If you are not able to visit the research room, please contact our reference staff by e-mail at: They do not take requests for newspaper research, but can send you a list of researchers for hire.

      Thank you,

      Lisa Wood
      Curator for Visual Resources and History Services Manager

  4. Pingback: Link: Wow! signal – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia | HFCC Astronomy Club

  5. What about the other picked up signals, both before and the Wow! signal was picked up in the Near 23 minute window the Wow! signal came in?

    Looking at the printout from the day that Wow! came in, and I have been noticing some things: 12 second after the last detection on Channel 2, a detection of 4 is made on channel 3 and it goes to 3 then 4 and then 4 then appoxiamately 24 seconds later a 4 picks up in channel 20. Above the Wow!, I am noticing something similar occurring.

    48 seconds before the “6” in Wow!, Channel 4 had a “6”. Then 12 seconds before that, Channel 9 had a “4”. After reviewing the printout, I have begun noticing other irregularities that could be just errors but I am suspicious.

    I have noticed that there are several places where a channel pickups an intensity of 3 or higher. Following the 3s, 4s, 5s, 6s; I have been able to draw a line connecting those points and it produces an interesting display.

    Looking at times, noticed: At 22:07.13 on Aug 15, 1977 an intensity 3 is picked up in channel 20. Then at 22:09.25 to 22:12.35, there is gap without anything higher than an intensity 2. After that, there are intensity 3 and higher that can be spotted until the bottom of the sheet. I would presume that this was all found already though.

    I find it noteworthy that you can draw an interesting line charting many of these 3s, 4s, 5s, 6s, and that you gives an interesting shape. I am sure though, that this curious bit of data was already picked up by somebody and noticed.

    A parting note: If a “3” or higher appears anywhere during the time recorded, it appears that 2s will also appear elsewhere in that row, or near the three. There are also 2s on there own. I may go ahead and later mark all the 2s as well, then plot shape appears when adding them in.

    Thank you for listening to me.

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