“…sometimes the source doesn’t burst for hours and hours and then suddenly you get multiple bursts in a short amount of time.”
Astronomers Spot Repeating Signals From Deep Space, and It Could be Aliens
Fast radio bursts are bright, unresolved, broadband, millisecond flashes observed in parts of the sky outside the Milky Way Galaxy. FRB’s are the most mysterious cosmic phenomena currently boggling astronomers.
A team of astronomers working with the radio Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Cartography Experiment (CHIME) Telescope has detected 8 sources of repetitive fast radio bursts (FRB), instantly increasing the total number of phenomena of this type known up to 10.
This is pretty impressive since only 8 months ago, just one mysterious signal, FRB 121102, was found to be repeated.
However, a news study available at the preprint server arXiv, and submitted to the Astrophysical Journal Letters, reveals eight previously unknown repeating signals, spotted by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) radio telescope.
The more repeating FRBs we come across, the more info we will have in order to understand what these signals mean.
So far, we don’t know much. We know that Fast Radio Bursts are a very perplexing cosmic phenomenon.
FRBs are identified as spikes in radio data and lost a few milliseconds at most, but during that short period of time, the signals are packed with energy equaling more than 500 million suns.
This means that the signals are extremely powerful and pack a good deal of energy.
The curious thing is that most Fast Radio Bursts are only detected once. We have not managed to come up with a method that allows us to predict them, and tracing them to their source is a very complex thing, although not impossible since astronomers managed to trace an FRB to its original earlier this year.
But precisely because tracing FRB’s to their origin is so hard, is why repeating FRBs are important for astronomers. The new discovery of repeating FRBs means that these are not as rare as we once thought they were, and the new information can help us trace more of the repeaters to their source galaxies. This, in turn, can help us understand what type of environment they originate from, and what exactly causes them.
The more FRBs we identified the more data we have, and this allows astronomers to look for certain similarities or differences that can then help us explain the origin of the Fast Radio Bursts.
“There is definitely a difference between the sources, with some being more prolific than others,” physicist Ziggy Pleunis of McGill University revealed in an interview with ScienceAlert.
“We already knew from FRB 121102 that the bursts can be very clustered: sometimes the source doesn’t burst for hours and hours and then suddenly you get multiple bursts in a short amount of time. We have observed the same thing for FRB 180916.J0158+65, for which we report ten bursts in this paper.”
FRB 121102 has been identified with a galaxy located approximately 3 billion light-years, well outside the Milky Way, and is embedded in an extreme environment. But not all FRB’s have been found to originate from extreme environments. The polarization of the signals actually tells us a lot about them. If the FRB is really twisted up, it could mean that it came from a really magnetic environment, like a black hole or neutrons star. But one of the recently analyzed FRBs (FRB 180916) was found to be really low, meaning that it did not come from an extreme environment.
The new study has revealed that of the new eight repeating FRB’s, six of them only repeated once with the longest pause between the fast radio bursts being just a little over 20 hours.
The astronomers revealed that FRB 181119 repeated twice after initial detection, totaling three repeats.
What this means remains an enigma.
We don’t know their sources, and we don’t know why FRBs exist, we don’t know why they repeat either. We just know that throughout the universe, FRB’s are being spotted. Alien signals are popping p from all over the cosmos.
It could indicate, however, as noted by Harvard-Smithsonian astrophysicist Vikram Ravi – that all FRBs are repeater signals and some of them are just more active than others.
Most advanced estimates imply there could be as many as 100 FRBs per day in the sky, meaning that we need to step up our game in order to spot more of them.
Harvard Astronomers View on FRBs
Two astrophysicists, Avi Loeb from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and Manasvi Lingam at Harvard University investigated FRBs and have put forth the possibility that the mystery signals could actually be evidence of advanced alien technology.
“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.” – Avi Loeb, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Loeb and Lingam analyzed the amount of energy that would be required to send a signal that strong across such a massive distance. They discovered that to do so, aliens would be able to do it with the help of solar energy, which would require a solar array so big that it needs to cover twice the surface area of our planet. This would only work however if the alien civilization was close to their host star as we are to the sun.
But alien propulsion systems may also be an explanation for FRBs intercepted by experts.
The researchers have shown that the engineering they’ve mentioned could actually power a spacecraft with a payload of a million tons through space.
As explained by Lingam, “That’s big enough to carry living passengers across interstellar or even intergalactic distances.”
If FRBs are really the outcome of an alien propulsion system, it would work the following way: Earth is rotating and orbiting, and this means the alien star and galaxy are moving relative to us. This is precisely why we would only see a brief flash. The beam moves across the sky and only hits us for a moment.
Although the above explanation is speculative, the researchers conclude in their paper that
“Although the possibility that FRBs are produced by extragalactic civilizations is more speculative than an astrophysical origin, quantifying the requirements necessary for an artificial origin serves, at the very least, the important purpose of enabling astronomers to rule it out with future data.”
Although we can’t rule out the possibility that its aliens responsible for FRB’s, Seth Shostak from SETI arguest that “one can safely bet it’s not aliens” because of the very nature of FRBs.
The bursters are seen all over the sky, that’s why. The same sort of signal is coming from galaxies that are generally separated by billions of light-years. So how could aliens organize so much of the universe to engage in broadcasting the same sort of signal? There’s hardly been enough time since the Big Bang to coordinate such widespread teamwork, even if you can think of a reason for it!
Aliens or not, FRBs are a truly impressive and mind-bending phenomenon that reveals just how little about the universe we know.