Astronomers Detect Unusual Patterns of Radio Emissions, Extraterrestrials Considered a Possible Explanation

Tuesday, 31 March 2015 - 2:30PM
Astrobiology
Alien Life
Tuesday, 31 March 2015 - 2:30PM
Astronomers Detect Unusual Patterns of Radio Emissions, Extraterrestrials Considered a Possible Explanation
In the 1997 film Contact, Jodie Foster discovers alien intelligence when they send radio signals signifying a sequence of prime numbers. Now, researchers have discovered an unusually regular pattern of radio bursts from deep space of unknown origin, and the source could potentially be an extraterrestrial civilization.

Between 2001 and 2014, telescopes have detected ten fast radio bursts (FRBs) that seem to come from far outside our galaxy. These bursts are a few milliseconds long, and they have as much energy as our sun emits each month. Scientists are completely baffled as to their source, especially since the bursts are too short to come from any normal stars in our galaxy. Judging from the time frame, their source is only a few hundred kilometers in diameter.

But the strangest part of these FRBs is that they follow an extremely uniform pattern, in which all of their dispersion measures- which measures how far the radio wave has traveled- are multiples of 187.5. If that seems incredibly specific, that's because it is, and there is no known astrophysical explanation for the phenomenon.

Astronomers Detect Unusual Radio Bursts, Consider Extraterrestrials as Explanation

[Credit: New Scientist]



Taken out of context, the numbers indicate that the radio waves are coming from regularly spaced intervals from Earth, all in a region far outside of our galaxy at several billion miles away. The researchers believe it is more likely that the same source is emitting all of the signals from closer to Earth at a delay that is a multiple of 187.5. But either way, it's probably not a coincidence. "We estimate the likelihood of a coincidence as 5 : 10,000," the researchers said in their paper

"If the pattern is real, it is very, very hard to explain," co-author John Learned told New Scientist

Although this is more far-fetched, the authors are not ruling out contact from an extraterrestrial civilization. As they wrote in their paper, if the aforementioned causes can be ruled out, then "only an artificial source (human or non-human) must be considered."
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