Repeating Deep Space Radio Signals Baffle Scientists
Friday, 23 December 2016

Astronomers have reported a new wave of Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) from deep space. These mysterious radio signals have baffled and intrigued astronomers, including some who speculate that they are the work of an extraterrestrial intelligence.

Scientists with the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico have detected a series of six FRBs, all in approximately the same location: the Auriga constellation, some three billion light-years from Earth.

The most recent wave follows 18 previously detected FRBs, recorded since 2007. The astronomical community continues to discuss the probable source of the repeating signals. An FRB lasts only a few milliseconds, but contains an incredible amount of energy, about the same amount our Sun produces in a month. Sensitive detection devices have been able to detect FRBs billions of light years from the Earth.

While a cosmic event, such as a stellar collision, could be responsible for a single FRB, multiple bursts in short succession imply that the FRBs are a repeating phenomenon, not unlike a signal. Science News claims that the most likely candidate is solar flares from a neutron star, the hyper-dense collapsed core of a larger star. Another possible candidate is, naturally, extraterrestrials.

In 2015, physicist John Learned, with the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and astronomer Michael Hippke with the Institute for Data Analysis published a paper arguing that the repeating FRB waves show a consistency between the dispersion measure (the difference in arrival times between high and low frequencies) showing a 1 in 2,000 chance of being coincidental. They speculated that the FRBs could result from a superdense star whose physics may allow for regular bursts of radio waves, or a human-built spy satellite which disguises its transmissions to appear as signals from deep space.

But it could also be the result of an intelligent alien race attempting to make contact through the cosmos. As was detailed in the plotline of the 1997 film Contact, humanity beams radio signals into space in an attempt to communicate with potential galactic neighbors. Mankind's radio signals, however, have only spread some 200 light-years from this planet.

If the FRBs are of intelligent origin, it could then be a civilization advanced enough to command the energy of an entire star, meaning they would be technologically many thousands of years ahead of humanity.


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