Does China have evidence of alien life? Don't bet on it, but that's the unusual question in play after a state-run news site reported, then deleted a story claiming scientists with access to the world's largest and most sensitive radio telescope had uncovered possible signals from alien civilizations. Zhang Tonjie, chief scientist of an extraterrestrial civilization research team at Beijing Normal University, told Science and Technology Daily, the official newspaper of China's science and technology ministry, that data from the country's FAST or "Sky Eye" telescope revealed "several cases of possible technological traces and extraterrestrial civilizations from outside the Earth" that differed from other signals detected, Live Science reports.
"Two suspicious narrow-band, potentially artificial radio signals" were reportedly discovered in data from 2019, while another turned up in a 2022 survey of known exoplanets, per Live Science. "We look forward to the [FAST telescope] being the first to discover and confirm the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations," Tonjie told the Daily in the now-deleted report. However, he added that there is a "very high" chance that the signals could be "some kind of radio interference." That's definitely the case here, according to Dan Werthimer, chief scientist at the UC Berkeley SETI [Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence] Research Center, who works with the Chinese researchers and is familiar with the signals.
"These signals are from radio interference; they are due to radio pollution from Earthlings, not from ET," he tells Space.com. Per Salon, he adds the signals "come and go no matter where you're pointed," proving them to be "locally generated interference." He couldn't explain the deletion, which only seemed to increase interest and trust in the report. But though some claimed it was ordered by Chinese authorities or aliens themselves, Danny C. Price, an expert in radio astronomy at Curtin University, sees a more likely scenario. "Media releases are normally timed for simultaneous release with peer-reviewed results—which are not yet available—so it was likely just released a bit early by mistake," he writes at the Conversation. (Read more aliens stories.)