An enigmatic alien signal has recently been traced by experts to a nearby galaxy.
Is E.T. really knocking on our door, trying to say hello through weird repeating fast radio bursts? Or have astronomers taken a step closer to identify the enigmatic–however natural–nature of these strange radio bursts?
Astronomer shave recently managed to trace the signal of a strange, repeating fast radio burst, for the second time in history, to a spiral galaxy eerily similar to our own, located not that far away.
What are FRB’s?
FRB or Fast Radio Burst are strange, short–millisecond-long–bursts of radio waves originating from distant parts in outer space. There are repeating FRBs and there are Individual FRBs. The individual FRBs emit once and don’t’ repeat. However, repeating FRBs are much more enigmatic and are known to send out powerful yet short radio waves more than once.
Despite the fact that astronomers shave managed to trace back the source of individual FRBs, we have not been able to fully understand what produces them.
The newly discovered repeating fast radio burst may shed light on these strange alien signs. It is the first such found in 2019, and instead of helping us understand what causes it, it deepens the mystery behind FRBs.
The new FRB is dubbed 180916.J0158+65 and was spotted using eight ground-based telescopes that were positioned to look at a galaxy located around half-a-billion light-years away from us.
Although this may seem like an unfathomable distance, it’s actually up to seven times close than any other repeating radio burst, ad more than ten times closer than any non-repeating FRB that we have been able to trace so far.
The first repeating fast radio burst–FRB 121102–was traced back to a small dwarf galaxy located 3 billion light-years, well outside the Milky Way.
“The multiple flashes that we witnessed in the first repeating FRB arose from very particular and extreme conditions inside a very tiny [dwarf] galaxy,” said Benito Marcote, lead study author from the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe, which turns a global network of telescopes into a single observatory.
“This discovery represented the first piece of the puzzle but it also raised more questions than it solved, such as whether there was a fundamental difference between repeating and non-repeating FRBs. Now, we have localized a second repeating FRB, which challenges our previous ideas on what the source of these bursts could be.”
Shedding light on a cosmic mystery
“The FRB is among the closest yet seen, and we even speculated that it could be a more conventional object in the outskirts of our own galaxy,” revealed Mohit Bhardwaj, study co-author, and McGill University doctoral student.
“However, the observation proved that it’s in a relatively nearby galaxy, making it still a puzzling FRB but close enough to now study using many other telescopes.”
The study detailing the newly found repeating FRB was recently published in the journal Nature.
The newly spotted FRB not only differs from other repeating fast radio bursts but from all fast radio bursts that have ever been traced.
Experts say that thus, the difference between repeating and non-repeating FRB are less clear, and experts speculate that these strange events may not be linked to a specific type of galaxy or environment, which further raises the mystery surrounding the enigmatic signals which seem to be popping up in a massive zoo of locations across the universe.
Kenzie Nimmo, a study co-author and Ph.D. student at the University of Amsterdam explained that spotting all of them “may just require some specific conditions in order to make them visible.”
Regarding the new repeating FRB, experts say it was traced back to one of the Spiral arms of a galaxy similar to ours, within its star-forming region.