First Contact? Mystified Scientists Detect Strange Radio Signal Emanating From Deep Space

Monday, 06 August 2018 - 12:20PM
Astronomy
Monday, 06 August 2018 - 12:20PM
First Contact? Mystified Scientists Detect Strange Radio Signal Emanating From Deep Space
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Pixabay Composite
Something outside our galaxy is signaling us. An unnaturally-deep fast radio burst came booming out of the skies and astronomers are struggling to explain, well, everything about it.

A fast radio burst (FRB) is loosely understood as "a quick surge of light from a point on the sky, made up of longer wavelengths in the radio portion of the light spectrum" according to NASA.

On the surface, it seems like a straightforward definition – except for the glaring omission that nobody can confirm where they come from. It's speculated that violent phenomena such as merging stars are "likely" the cause… Along with about seven other hypotheses. You almost have to wonder whether researchers pinned a list of terms to a dart board and chose to "let the universe decide."

Here's what we do know about fast radio bursts: Only 30 FRBs have been identified and named since they first echoed down onto our planet in 2007. They release a colossal amount of energy (500 million Suns) in mere milliseconds before evaporating into the ether. One burst  – FRB 121102 – has signaled us over 150 times. It's speculated that these radio bursts could happen as often as 2,000-10,000 times every single day. And they come from billions of lightyears away… Somewhere.

This newest signal (FRB 180725A) is like nothing we've ever detected before: at a frequency of approximately 580 MHz (200 MHz lower than any other FRB), this one was described by Maxim as sounding like someone dropped a tuba into a trumpet chorus.

Harvard physicists are not above speculating that aliens may well be the source – especially since, as of March 2017, 16 FRBs were detected emanating from the same source. Avi Loeb, a theoretical physicist from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, ventures "An artificial origin is worth contemplating and checking."

One paper went so far as to posit that FRBs stem from alien civilization light sail technology. Light sails are a propulsion system powered by photons and still theoretical technology down here on Earth. The paper proposes that "the optimal frequency for powering the light sail is shown to be similar to the detected FRB frequencies."

We'll just have to wait and see if they get closer in order to find out.


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