Highly unusual radio activity emanating from a star in the outer reaches of the universe was detected by Russian astronomers more than 15 months ago, but what they did next was equally unusual: they declined to tell anybody.
Despite the potential significance of such an event, the recording of the distant radio activity went largely unnoticed by the broader scientific community - and now there's a desperate race to try and figure out what, or who, caused it.
After the Russian researchers delivered a seminar and quietly circulated a paper about the abnormal radio signal, word of the discovery slowly trickled out.
This week scientists from the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute will begin investigating the mysterious signal by turning their telescopes to the same place in the cosmos where they believe the signal was produced.
The strong spike seems to have come from a sun-like star some 95 light-years away form Earth in the constellation Hercules, known as HD 164595.
Possible explanations for the abnormal radio recording tend to fall into two categories with distinctly different implications.
One that posits the signal was a product of intelligence and was emitted by a civilisation far more advanced than our own, and the decidedly less exciting explanation that it was the result of earthly radio interference.
According to GeekWire, a third possibility suggests the signal could have been a "microlensing" event in which the star's gravitational field focused stray signals coming from elsewhere in the universe.
The signal was first detected on May 15, 2015, by the RATAN-600 telescope used by the Russian Academy of Science but was effectively withheld from the international community. However it has come to light in the past couple days after a science writer got his hands on a paper that announced the detection a "a strong signal in the direction of HD164595."
"Why is it that we're hearing about this now because one of the guys gave a talk in Moscow a year ago," a bemused astronomer and director of the Center for SETI Research in California, Seth Shostak, lamented to The Guardian.
"It's generally accepted procedure in the SETI community if you find a signal that you think is interesting, you call up people in another observatory and say: 'Hey, here's the position in the sky,' and you see what happens," he said.
For all we know, it could be too late now.
The radio activity is certainly interesting enough to warrant excited speculation and further inquiry, scientists say.
The SETI institute will use the Allen Telescope Array in the mountains of far Northern California to focus on the Hercules constellation from whence it came.
Meanwhile an affiliate group called METI International (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence) will be scanning the area using the Boquete Optical SETI Observatory in Panama.
According to the researchers behind the initial detection, "permanent monitoring of this target is needed."
However there has been no indication of a second spike in radio activity in the 15 months since the initial spike was recorded.
Nevertheless, the scientific community is keen to investigate it further. Part of the reason why there is such interest is because the sun-like HD 164595 star is already known to have a Neptune-like planet (but warmer) in its orbit.
According to science writer Paul Gilster who first broke the story on his blog, "there could, of course, be other planets still undetected in this system."
In an e-mail to GeekWire, the president of San Francisco-based METI International Doud Vakoch said they will begin monitoring the area immediately to help determine that the original signal "didn't arise from a technical glitch" or was not the result of an elaborate hoax.
"In addition, we need to be alert to the possibility than if we do really find a signal from an advanced civilisation, they are also transmitting at other frequencies than the one where we first detected them. That's why it's so important to prepare for follow-up SETI observations at both radio and optical frequencies, to be launched as soon as we detect a credible candidate signal at any frequency," he wrote.
It remains to be seen if researchers will be able to detect a secondary blimp, but already the case has been likened to the mysterious Wow Signal detected in 1977 and the confounding flickering KIC 8462852 star which recently prompted lofty theories of the existence of an alien megastructure.
Italian astronomer Claudio Maccone who passed the information of the signal detection on to science writer Paul Gilster is due to give a presentation next month for the International Academy of Astronautics 2016 meeting about the search for alien life.
According to The Guardian, in his speech he will say: "The power of the signal received is not unrealistic for type I civilisations."
The category is a reference to Kardashev scale, named after Russian astrophysicist Nikolai Kardashev. A type I civilisation would boast a similar technological development to that currently found on Earth.