Scientists from the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) are currently looking into a series of signal spikes that they think could have been produced by an advanced alien race.
The enigmatic signals are originating from a 6.3-billion-year-old star in the constellation Hercules (HD164595), which is around 95 light years away from the Earth. Although the signal doesn't contain the names and addresses of our friendly alien neighbours, and no one is claiming that this is definitely an extraterrestrial hailing beacon, SETI researchers do think that it fits a lot of the criteria for it.
Judging by the strength of the signal, the researchers are saying that it could be coming from an isotropic beacon, which could only really be produced by a Kardashev Type II civilization.
A Kardashev Type II civilization is, as the name suggests, a type of civilisation measured on the Kardashev Scale, which is a system of categorisation for intelligent civilizations by their energy production and consumption capabilities. A Type II civilisation would be far in advance of our own (we're currently at around 0.7) and producing an isotropic beacon would take an immense amount of energy.
An isotropic beacon basically means that the signal is being emitted with equal power in all directions - it's essentially a "spray and pray" approach to interstellar communications. Alternatively, the signal could be a single beam directed at the Earth, which would take less energy to transmit, but would mean that they already know we're here, which would require immensely advance detection skills on their part.
So, Is It Aliens?
The signal was detected back in May of 2015, and papers on the subject have been quietly passed around SETI ever since, until astronomy writer Paul Gilster broke the news on his website.
Whilst there are many possible explanations for a signal of this kind (some of which we might not even have discovered yet), it is interesting enough to get SETI whispering, and they spend all day looking at signals from space. The principal scientists working on the signal say that “permanent monitoring of this target is needed,” which is promising at the very least.
The findings will be discussed at the International Astronautical Congress in Mexico at the end of September, where hopefully we'll get a better idea as to whether it's just a random noise from space, or a genuine instance of first contact with an advanced civilisation.
Update [1/09/16] : Further analysis of the signal by Russian scientists has "revealed its most probable terrestrial origin." Shame.