A team of researchers just picked up 15 strange signals from a distant galaxy.
Researchers from Breakthrough Listen, a group from the University of California, Berkeley have picked up 15 explosive radio signals in the space of just five hours. Similar signals coming from a galaxy named FRB 121102 have been picked up in the past, but nothing of this magnitude has ever been noted. “Bursts from this source have never been seen at this high a frequency,” said Andrew Siemion, director of Breakthrough Listen.
The discovery was made in the early hours of Saturday morning and have been measured 3 billion light-years away. It’s from the same galaxy that repeated signals have been heard in the past, but the signals (known as ‘fast radio bursts’) have never been this frequent.
One of the exciting things about these bursts is they are among the most explosive phenomena that have been found in the universe – they have the ability to generate the equivalent energy of 500 million Suns in milliseconds, yet it is a mystery to what they are and where they come from.
The most agreed upon ideas thus far are highly-magnetic magnetars, which are a type of neutron star surrounded by energetic material. However, the scientists are also discussing the possibility of a lifeform different to ours- with a Harvard team suggesting the bursts could be a source of energy to power an alien spacecraft.
When radio waves of this type were first detected in 2007, they all seemed to occur erratically and from different parts of the cosmos. However, in 2015 it was confirmed that the burst were coming from the same source- FRB 121102.
This particular event is especially significant due to the amount of bursts, in 2016 it took Breakthrough Listen 6 months to pick up just 9 bursts, in comparison to the 15 bursts in 5 hours just measured. Not only were the blasts faster, but also emitted at a higher frequency than previously recorded signals.
“These observations may indicate FRB 121102 is currently in a heightened activity state, and follow-on observations are encouraged, particularly at higher radio frequencies,” the team wrote in an article published in the Astronomer’s Telegram.
“As well as confirming that the source is in a newly active state, the high resolution of the data obtained by the Listen instrument will allow measurement of the properties of these mysterious bursts at a higher precision than ever possible before,” said Vishal Gajjar a Breakthrough Listen researcher, Gajjar continued “The extraordinary capabilities of the backend receiver, which is able to record several gigahertz of bandwidth at a time, split into billions of individual channels, enable a new view of the frequency spectrum of FRBs, and should shed additional light on the processes giving rise to FRB emission.”
So is the life extraterrestrial in nature? More research needs to be done, although they are not ruling it out- “Whether or not fast radio bursts turn out to be signatures of extraterrestrial technology, Breakthrough Listen is helping to push the frontiers of a new and rapidly growing area of our understanding of the universe around us,” Andrew Siemion from Breakthrough Listen
The team are currently writing up a more detailed report for consideration in a peer-reviewed journal.
I am Luke Miller the author of this article, and creator of Potential For Change. I like to blend psychology and spirituality to help you create more happiness in your life.Grab a copy of my free 33 Page Illustrated eBook- Psychology Meets Spirituality- Secrets To A Supercharged Life You Control Here