Published: Sat, January 12, 2019
Sci-tech | By April Francis

Alien proof: Radio signals discovered in deep space

Alien proof: Radio signals discovered in deep space

Canada's CHIME telescope has detected 13 new fast radio bursts, or FRBs, including a mysterious "repeater" signal of six bursts from the single source, a galaxy located 1.5 billion light-years from Earth.

Ingrid Stairs, a member of the CHIME team said, 'Until now, there was only one known repeating FRB. Since then, scientists have detected more than 60 bursts, with only one - recorded in 2012 at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico - being a repeater.

They were picked up by researchers using the CHIME (Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment) telescope in British Columbia.

The so-called repeating fast radio bursts were identified during the trial run last summer of a built-for-purpose telescope running at only a fraction of its capacity.

But this is only the second one that has been found to repeat. It could be anything, the astronomers say, from a natural, yet unknown, process in the Universe to messages coming from extraterrestrial civilizations.

Stairs said that their next steps will be to gain a better understanding of the FRBs' environments and what causes them. A lucky moment in 2015 resulted in the detection of multiple FRBs coming from the same location, which differs from random fast radio bursts that appear isolated in different locations.

More likely, CHIME's Shiryash Tendulkar says, is the possibility that they come from a "very strongly magnetized, rapidly spinning neutron star called a millisecond magnetar".

"An FRB emitted from a merger of two neutron stars, or a neutron star and a black hole, for example, can not repeat".

Supernovas, black holes, quasars - there are lots of unusual, high-energy items out there in the universe, and who knows what happens when they combine?

"We now know the sources can produce low-frequency radio waves and those low-frequency waves can escape their environment, and are not too scattered to be detected by the time they reach the Earth". These are simply the lowest frequencies recorded so far for such signals. Even though we've evolved our understanding of the cosmos over the past centuries, the reality is that we barely comprehend the many mysteries this vast expanse holds within it.

But, from whatever little data exists, most scientists do not believe that FRBs are attempts by aliens to contact us.

The telescope is protected in a federally, legally enforced zone of no manmade radio signals, to ensure that the ordinary interferences that cause false observations are omitted. According to Harvard University professor Abraham Loeb, it's possible that the FRBs can be traced back to massive energy beams that according to him could be used to propel large alien spaceships.

The new FRBs are are also at unusually low radio frequencies. "But it has to be in some special place to give us all the scattering that we see", said Ng.

Mysterious repeating energy bursts have been detected for only the second time. Launched in 2017, the project is a collaboration of Canadian scientists from the University of British Columbia, McGill University, the University of Toronto, the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, and the National Research Council of Canada.

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