Legend has it that in orbit around the Earth is a mysterious, dark object which dates back perhaps 13 000 years. Its origin and purpose are inscrutable, dubbed the “Black Knight” this elusive satellite has allegedly been beaming signals towards the Earth and inspected by NASA astronauts yet only a few on Earth officially know of its existence. The origin of the ominous name is part of the enigma; it is impossible to discover who first called it this or indeed why. Humans have only in the last 60 years had the technology to launch a man-made object into space so what is the logical explanation of tales of an alien intruder on our doorstep?
The Tesla Transmissions
The first apparent part of this story begins with signals heard by Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) a brilliant Serbian inventor (and described by many thanks to his often eccentric behaviour and opinions as a genuine mad scientist) who spent most of his career in the USA. He was an electrical engineer and produced works which explored the idea of radio and wireless transmissions. In 1899, he reportedly intercepted a signal unlike any of the natural sources from Earth such as electrical storms that he had already investigated in his experiments. Instead he announced that regular signals must be coming from an intelligent outside source, potentiallyinhabitants of Mars. Tesla never claimed to have heard signals from a satellite orbiting Earth. Today there are those who say he was listening to a transmission from an orbiting satellite of unknown origin later called by some the Black Knight.
It is slightly more likely, though still very far from probable, that what was Tesla detected was not an orbiting satellite but instead signals emitted from natural objects. Today we know of some natural extraterrestrial repeating sources such as pulsars. These are fast-spinning neutron stars which emit a rhythmic signal. They were first discovered in 1967 by Northern Irish astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell-Burnell (1943-). Until certain of their origin, they were jokingly nicknamed the Little Green Men signals. Tesla was not hearing the signals from pulsars though and was completely unaware of the nature of what he had really detected (if indeed he picked up anything at all). Telsa apparently never tried to repeat his observations, claiming that other matters took priority, an astonishingly casual response to so significant a claim.
The Black Knight Decoded?
In the 1920s anomalous signals were again detected by amateur radio operators. These were originally of Earthly origin, but their timing was bizarre! A signal would be received then a second repeated signal received a few seconds later. These Long Delayed Echoes (LDEs) were difficult to explain in terms or radio waves bouncing off atmospheric layers. In 1973, Scotsman Duncan Lunan (1945-) went back to these signals to see if could make sense of them. Miraculously by plotting the delay times against the order in which the echoes were received he could create what appeared to be star charts and diagrams. By deciphering them Lunan decided that the signals were actually messages transmitted by a probe originally from the star Epsilon Böotes (Izar) which had been lurking near the Moon for the past 13 000 years. Lunan is not a professional astronomer but instead a science communicator and science fiction author with a flair for outré ideas but nevertheless the name Black Knight is never mentioned by him; nor has he personally linked his Epsilon Böotes hypothesis with the Black Knight, others seem to be responsible for this. (UPDATE: Mr Lunan has stated his position on the Black Knight story in the Comments section below.)
Another story dating back to the early 1950s claimed to refer to an apparition of the Black Knight reports the detection of a signal of by an object in orbit. This was a time of deep suspicions held by the two superpowers on either side of the Pacific. Neither the Americans nor the Soviets had the ability to place an object into any kind of an orbit at that time. Yet the discovery of an Earth-orbiting satellite was reported in a couple of newspapers from the time, and the respected astronomer Clyde Tombaugh (discoverer of Pluto) is said to have been involved. However, the articles actually a couple of synopses of a book by the UFOlogical author Donald Keyhoe (1897-1988). I’m sure these promotional newspaper articles had been great for sales of the book!