An uncanny presence of radio waves coming from outer space puzzle scientists

05 April 2017, 07:25 PM
Representational Image (Source: PTI)
Representational Image (Source: PTI)

Unusual and brief bursts of cosmic radio waves have puzzled astronomers since they were first detected 10 years ago.

The mysterious phenomena were first noticed in 2007 when the ‘Lorimer burst’ was discovered in archived data from 2001. Since then, more than a dozen fast radio bursts (FRBs) have been detected in telescope data.

These tiny fragments of energy have been picked up by radio telescopes are known as FRBs (fast radio bursts). They contain as much energy as the sun pumps out in 10,000 years and are able to travel huge distances - but their origin remains a mystery.

So far, over 20 bursts have been recorded. Last year, astronomers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) published research that pinned down one set of FRBs from a galaxy six billion light years away.

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But that isn’t always the case as single-dish radio telescopes can receive signals from all over the place - including from here on Earth.

In fact, one case in the late 90s believed it was receiving an alien transmission when the energy was actually coming from a nearby microwave oven.

Now a new research accepted for publication in an upcoming edition of Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, seems to reaffirm the extraterrestrial nature of three new sets of FSBs. It can’t be said for certain that they are coming from aliens, what’s for sure are that they aren’t from this planet.

Discovered using the Molonglo telescope in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) it collects both a huge amount of data (over 1,000 TB a day) and is configured so as not to receive anything from within our atmosphere.

After combing through reams of data, a team of researchers found the three new sets of FRBs that matched up with previous signals.

Lead researcher Manisha Caleb said, "Figuring out where the bursts come from is the key to understanding what makes them. Only one burst has been linked to a specific galaxy”.

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The team of researchers is now currently working on to find out from where these bursts are coming from.

While scholars haven’t ruled out the possibility of signals from an alien civilisation as the cause of the bursts, it seems unlikely. A huge amount of energy would need to be produced to send the bursts across the void of space.

A collision between two small stars is being seen as a favourable cause of these FRBs.

First Published: Wednesday, April 05, 2017 07:13 PM
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