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Proxima Centauri seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. Photo: NASA/ESA

Scientists with the alien-searching Breakthrough Listen project are investigating a signal that may have come from Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Sun, according to a report from The Guardian.

Why it matters: If confirmed as a true sign of life, it would be wildly exciting. However, in all likelihood, the radio signal — found in 2019 — has a much more mundane origin story.

What's happening: According to The Guardian, scientists with Breakthrough picked up a "narrow beam of radio waves" during observations with the Australian Parkes telescope in May and April of 2019.

  • These narrow beams are of particular interest because they look like the kinds of radio waves humans send out into the universe, but that also makes it harder to parse whether a signal like this is alien or human in origin.
  • The scientists behind the discovery haven't been able to find an obvious explanation for the signal and are now performing follow-up observations to try to piece it together.
  • "The most obvious thing for them to do is to go back and use either Parkes or another observatory with similar sensitivity and just look again," the SETI Institute's Seth Shostak, who isn't involved with the new research, told me.

What to watch: It's still possible this signal is actually being emitted by some human cause that has yet to be found.

  • Or, the signal might even be coming from some other cosmic source with properties that have yet to be pinned down.
  • What's next: These possibilities will require follow-up observations to give scientists a good sense of what actually produced the signal in the first place.

Be smart: The scientists have yet to publish their full findings, and it will still take a lot of analysis and confirmation to know whether or not the signal is truly alien in nature.Go deeper: Alien hunters discover mysterious signal from Proxima Centauri (Scientific American)

Go deeper

The online far right is moving underground

Data: Apptopia; Chart: Axios Visuals

The online purge of far-right figures and platforms that followed last week's Capitol insurrection looks to be driving radicalized users into darker corners of the internet.

What's happening: Downloads have surged for messaging apps that are securely encrypted or designed to cater specifically to the ultra-conservative user.

26 mins ago - Technology

Scoop: More boycotts coming for Facebook

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Leaders of the Stop Hate For Profit social media boycott group are discussing whether to organize another campaign against Facebook in light of an explosive investigative series from The Wall Street Journal, Common Sense CEO Jim Steyer tells Axios.

The intrigue: Sources tell Axios that another group, separate from the Stop Hate For Profit organization, is expected to launch its own ad boycott campaign this week.

Democrats' dwindling 2022 map

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Democrats are trying to unseat only about half as many Republican House members next year as they did in 2020, trimming their target list from 39 to 21.

Why it matters: The narrowing map — which reflects where Democrats see their best chance of flipping seats — is the latest datapoint showing the challenging political landscape the party faces in the crucial 2022 midterms.