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Scientists Detect Mysterious Radio Signals from Deep Space

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A telescope in Canada detects repeating bursts of Radio waves (emanating beyond our galaxy) for the first time since 2007.

Astronomers identified mysterious repeating energy bursts from deep space in the summer of 2018. Researchers analyzed the collected data and published their report on the 9th January 2019.

According to that, the source of these ultra-short bursts was around 1.5 billion light-years away but they couldn’t find much about the exact origin of these millisecond-long pulses of Radio waves (Fast Radio Bursts).

Having said that, all the experts agree that it is an incredibly potent origin for the waves to reach this far.

The Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) telescope was used to discover these Fast Radio Burst (FRBs) in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. Although more than 60 FRBs have been detected to date, only 2 of them have been found repeating.

The Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico was the first telescope to observe a repeating burst in 2015. Ingrid Stairs, an Astrophysicist at the University of Columbia who was also a member of the CHIME team, talked about that in the following words:

“Until now, there was only one known repeating FRB. Knowing that there is another suggests that there could be more out there. With more repeaters and more sources available for study, we may be able to understand these cosmic puzzles — where they’re from and what causes them.”

A total of 13 FRBs were detected in this latest observation. Most of the previously detected FRBs had frequencies in the range of about 1,400 MHz but the ones discovered by CHIME are below 800 MHz. Seven of them were registered at 400 MHz, the lowest FRB frequency ever observed.

There are a number of events which could lead to the production of Radio waves in space. Consequently, scientists have proposed different theories for the origin of these repeating signals. Some previous studies argued that FRBs could be the radiation spewed out by Supermassive Black Holes or they could possibly be the remnants of distant supernovas.

However, the most interesting theory came from Avi Loeb and Manasvi Lingam of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. They proposed that FRBs come from some planet-sized alien transmitters, which were used to propel giant spaceships by bouncing off Radio waves to provide the necessary thrust. Loeb explained their theory by saying,

“Fast radio bursts are exceedingly bright given their short duration and origin at great distances, and we haven’t identified a possible natural source with any confidence. An artificial origin is worth contemplating and checking. Science isn’t a matter of belief, it’s a matter of evidence. Deciding what’s likely ahead of time limits the possibilities. It’s worth putting ideas out there and letting the data be the judge.”

Researchers believe that these newly discovered signals will help them to figure out the exact answer to this long-lasting mystery. For instance, the idea of supernovas was ruled out by these findings because these repeating signals flashed 6 times from the same point in the sky over a period of several months. On the contrary, bursts from a supernova are expected to happen just once.


Scientists searching for fast radio bursts (FRBs) that some believe may be signals sent from aliens may be happening every second. The blue points in this artist’s impression of the filamentary structure of galaxies are signals from FRBs

Similarly, the detection of low-frequency Radio waves indicates that FRBs are much more common than we think. The technology at our disposal is not advanced enough to detect them but FRBs with even lower frequencies than 400 MHz are around us all the time.

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Scientists consider this an important step in figuring out a solution to this problem and aim to build on that in the future.

You can have a look at these amazing FRBs in the following video:

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