Here’s Why Mysterious FRB’s Could be Signals From Extraterrestrial Civilizations

“…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.

Artists rendering of a signal in space. Shutterstock.

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.

Scientists spotted the new signal using the CHIME telescope. Image Credit: CHIME Collaboration.
The CHIME telescope. Image Credit: CHIME Collaboration.

“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.

So far the most prevailing theories trying to explain FRB’s include (magnetars), dark matterblack holessupernovae, and even the activities of alien civilizations.

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.

Astronomers detect regular rhythm of radio waves, with origins unknown

Signal from 500 million light years away is the first periodic pattern of radio bursts detected

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Summary: A team of astronomers has picked up on a curious, repeating rhythm of fast radio bursts emanating from an unknown source outside our galaxy, 500 million light years away.

Starry sky (stock | Credit: © pixel /

A team of astronomers, including researchers at MIT, has picked up on a curious, repeating rhythm of fast radio bursts emanating from an unknown source outside our galaxy, 500 million light years away.

Fast radio bursts, or FRBs, are short, intense flashes of radio waves that are thought to be the product of small, distant, extremely dense objects, though exactly what those objects might be is a longstanding mystery in astrophysics. FRBs typically last a few milliseconds, during which time they can outshine entire galaxies.

Since the first FRB was observed in 2007, astronomers have catalogued over 100 fast radio bursts from distant sources scattered across the universe, outside our own galaxy. For the most part, these detections were one-offs, flashing briefly before disappearing entirely. In a handful of instances, astronomers observed fast radio bursts multiple times from the same source, though with no discernible pattern.

This new FRB source, which the team has catalogued as FRB 180916.J0158+65, is the first to produce a periodic, or cyclical pattern of fast radio bursts. The pattern begins with a noisy, four-day window, during which the source emits random bursts of radio waves, followed by a 12-day period of radio silence.

The astronomers observed that this 16-day pattern of fast radio bursts reoccurred consistently over 500 days of observations. “This FRB we’re reporting now is like clockwork,” says Kiyoshi Masui, assistant professor of physics in MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research. “It’s the most definitive pattern we’ve seen from one of these sources. And it’s a big clue that we can use to start hunting down the physics of what’s causing these bright flashes, which nobody really understands.”

Masui is a member of the CHIME/FRB collaboration, a group of more than 50 scientists led by the University of British Columbia, McGill University, University of Toronto, and the National Research Council of Canada, that operates and analyzes the data from the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, or CHIME, a radio telescope in British Columbia that was the first to pick up signals of the new periodic FRB source.

The CHIME/FRB Collaboration has published the details of the new observation today in the journal Nature.

A radio view

In 2017, CHIME was erected at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in British Columbia, where it quickly began detecting fast radio bursts from galaxies across the universe, billions of light years from Earth.

CHIME consists of four large antennas, each about the size and shape of a snowboarding half-pipe, and is designed with no moving parts. Rather than swiveling to focus on different parts of the sky, CHIME stares fixedly at the entire sky, using digital signal processing to pinpoint the region of space where incoming radio waves are originating.

From September 2018 to February 2020, CHIME picked out 38 fast radio bursts from a single source, FRB 180916.J0158+65, which the astronomers traced to a star-churning region on the outskirts of a massive spiral galaxy, 500 million light years from Earth. The source is the most active FRB source that CHIME has yet detected, and until recently it was the closest FRB source to Earth.

As the researchers plotted each of the 38 bursts over time, a pattern began to emerge: One or two bursts would occur over four days, followed by a 12-day period without any bursts, after which the pattern would repeat. This 16-day cycle occurred again and again over the 500 days that they observed the source.

“These periodic bursts are something that we’ve never seen before, and it’s a new phenomenon in astrophysics,” Masui says.

Circling scenarios

Exactly what phenomenon is behind this new extragalactic rhythm is a big unknown, although the team explores some ideas in their new paper. One possibility is that the periodic bursts may be coming from a single compact object, such as a neutron star, that is both spinning and wobbling — an astrophysical phenomenon known as precession. Assuming that the radio waves are emanating from a fixed location on the object, if the object is spinning along an axis and that axis is only pointed toward the direction of Earth every four out of 16 days, then we would observe the radio waves as periodic bursts.

Another possibility involves a binary system, such as a neutron star orbiting another neutron star or black hole. If the first neutron star emits radio waves, and is on an eccentric orbit that briefly brings it close to the second object, the tides between the two objects could be strong enough to cause the first neutron star to deform and burst briefly before it swings away. This pattern would repeat when the neutron star swings back along its orbit.

The researchers considered a third scenario, involving a radio-emitting source that circles a central star. If the star emits a wind, or cloud of gas, then every time the source passes through the cloud, the gas from the cloud could periodically magnify the source’s radio emissions.

“Maybe the source is always giving off these bursts, but we only see them when it’s going through these clouds, because the clouds act as a lens,” Masui says.

Perhaps the most exciting possibility is the idea that this new FRB, and even those that are not periodic or even repeating, may originate from magnetars — a type of neutron star that is thought to have an extremely powerful magnetic field. The particulars of magnetars are still a bit of a mystery, but astronomers have observed that they do occasionally release massive amounts of radiation across the electromagnetic spectrum, including energy in the radio band.

“People have been working on how to make these magnetars emit fast radio bursts, and this periodicity we’ve observed has since been worked into these models to figure out how this all fits together,” Masui says.

Very recently, the same group made a new observation that supports the idea that magnetars may in fact be a viable source for fast radio bursts. In late April, CHIME picked up a signal that looked like a fast radio burst, coming from a flaring magnetar, some 30,000 light years from Earth. If the signal is confirmed, this would be the first FRB detected within our own galaxy, as well as the most compelling evidence of magnetars as a source of these mysterious cosmic sparks.

NASA spacecraft takes images of ‘alien sky’ 4.3B miles from Earth

Nasa’s New Horizons spacecraft snaps photos of an ‘alien sky’ more than 4.3 billion miles from Earth

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, which yielded the first close-up photos of Pluto, has managed to snap photos of an “alien sky” more than 4.3 billion miles from Earth.

The craft took images of nearby stars Proxima Centauri and Wolf 359, which appear to be in vastly different positions from the vantage point we see them on Earth, something known as the “parallax effect.” The space agency notes this is the same effect that people can easily replicate by placing one finger at arm’s length and watching it move when you close one eye or the other.

“It’s fair to say that New Horizons is looking at an alien sky, unlike what we see from Earth,” said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern in a statement.

This two-frame animation of Wolf 359 blinks back and forth between New Horizons and Earth images of each star, clearly illustrating the different view of the sky New Horizons has from its deep-space perch. (Credit: NASA)

This two-frame animation of Wolf 359 blinks back and forth between New Horizons and Earth images of each star, clearly illustrating the different view of the sky New Horizons has from its deep-space perch. (Credit: NASA)

“That has allowed us to do something that had never been accomplished before — to see the nearest stars visibly displaced on the sky from the positions we see them on Earth,” Stern added.

Proxima Centauri and Wolf 359 are 4.2 and 7.795 light-years away from Earth, respectively. A light-year, which measures distance in space, is approximately 6 trillion miles.

This two-frame animation of Proxima Centauri blinks back and forth between New Horizons and Earth images of each star, clearly illustrating the different view of the sky New Horizons has from its deep-space perch. (Credit: NASA)

This two-frame animation of Proxima Centauri blinks back and forth between New Horizons and Earth images of each star, clearly illustrating the different view of the sky New Horizons has from its deep-space perch. (Credit: NASA)

The parallax effect is used to measure the distance to stars, but since stars are always moving, it’s impossible to see the motion over time. “No human eye can detect these shifts,” Stern explained.

However, the change was spotted thanks to scientists comparing images from the ground to the images taken by the New Horizons craft, creating a 3-D view to see the stars “floating” in front of the background stars.

“The New Horizons experiment provides the largest parallax baseline ever made — over 4 billion miles — and is the first demonstration of an easily observable stellar parallax,” Tod Lauer, New Horizons science team member, added in the statement.

“The New Horizons spacecraft is truly a mission of firsts, and this demonstration of stellar parallax is no different” said Kenneth Hansen, New Horizons program scientist. “The New Horizons spacecraft continues to speed away from Earth toward interstellar space and is continuing to return exciting new data for planetary science.”

Traveling at roughly 33,000 miles per hour, the $720 million New Horizons spacecraft, which launched in January 2006, will continue sending data transmission from its Arrokoth flyby until the latter part of summer 2020. It will eventually reach interstellar space, like the Voyager probes before it.

Previous discoveries include the object Arrokoth, previously known as Ultima Thule. In May 2019, New Horizons discovered water and organic molecules on Arrokoth, which is deep within the so-called Kuiper Belt, or Twilight Zone, well beyond the orbit of Neptune.

The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., designed and built New Horizons and is managing the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. The Southwest Research Institute is leading the New Horizons science team and payload operations.

There Are At Least 36 Intelligent Alien Civilizations In Our Galaxy, Say Scientists

This artist’s impression shows the planet K2-18b, it’s host star and an accompanying planet in this system. K2-18b is now the only super-Earth exoplanet known to host both water and temperatures that could support life.
This artist’s impression shows the planet K2-18b, it’s host star and an accompanying planet in this … [+] ESA/HUBBLE, M. KORNMESSER

It’s the oldest and the greatest cosmic question of all: is there anybody out there?

For years all we’ve had is the Drake Equation to help us understand the question, but no indication of an answer. Now a group of scientists at the University of Nottingham think they’ve come up with a new “cosmic evolution”-based calculation—or, rather, an estimation—that suggests that there are likely to be at least 36 ongoing intelligent civilizations in our Milky Way galaxy.

The Milky Way, home to our Solar System, is estimated to have 100 billion to 400 billion stars, and roughly one exoplanet per star in our galaxy.

Published today in The Astrophysical Journal, the new paper examines the likely number of Communicating Extra-Terrestrial Intelligent (CETI) civilizations in the Milky Way. It assumes that intelligent life comes to occur on other planets much as it has done on our own planet.

It actually makes a lot of assumptions. Indeed, way too many assumptions for some that doubt its generous conclusions.

A key assumption is that it takes around five billion years for intelligent life to form on other planets, as it does on Earth, but that life is probable. That’s a big assumption, for sure. Another is that a technological civilization will last at least 100 years—as ours has, thus far. After all, it took 4.5 billion years of evolution before a technological civilization arose on Earth, and was capable of communicating.

The number of civilizations depends strongly on how long they are actively sending out signals of their existence into space—such as radio transmissions from satellites and TV.

The calculation—which says that there could be 36 active communicating intelligent civilizations in our home galaxy on 4.5-billion years old (or more) Earth-like planets around Sun-like stars—is called the “Astrobiological Copernican Limit” by the researchers. It takes into account:

  • star formation histories.
  • how common metal-rich stars are (like the Sun).
  • the likelihood of stars hosting Earth-like planets in their habitable zones.

“The classic method for estimating the number of intelligent civilizations relies on making guesses of values relating to life, but opinions about such matters vary quite substantially,” said Tom Westby, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Engineering at the University of Nottingham, and lead author on the paper. “Our new study simplifies these assumptions using new data, giving us a solid estimate of the number of civilizations in our galaxy.”

The estimation of at least 36 civilizations is based on a very positive outlook on how, where and why life comes into being, and there’s also a wide errorbar. It could be that many, many more alien civilizations exist. It could also be that none exist.

However, the authors note that the average distance to one of these 36 civilizations is around 17,000 light-years, so detection and communication is currently impossible.

There’s also the thorny question of how long intelligent civilizations tend to survive.

“Searches for extraterrestrial intelligent civilizations not only reveals the existence of how life itself forms, but also gives us clues about how long our own civilization will last,” said Christopher Conselice, Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Nottingham, who led the research. “If we find that intelligent life is common then this would reveal that our civilization could exist for much longer than a few hundred years.”

“Alternatively, if we find that there are no active civilizations in our galaxy it is a bad sign for our own long-term existence.”

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.

Mysterious green glow seen shooting across Australian night sky

Night owls in Western Australia have captured a stunning green glow shoot across the evening sky.Video was captured by locals in Port Hedland, in the state’s Pilbara region, as the sky lit up with the ominous green object.The glow was also seen by people in parts of Victoria and South Australia.

Night owls in Western Australia have captured a stunning green glow shoot across the evening sky. (Supplied)
Video was captured by locals in Port Hedland, in the state’s Pilbara region, as the sky lit up with the ominous green object. (Supplied)

Astronomers believe it was Asteroid 2002 NN4, which was scheduled to pass Earth at about 11.20pm yesterday.The asteroid is estimated to be the size of six football fields, with estimated diameter of up to 570 metres, according to the Centre for Near Earth Object Studies.Despite being clearly visible, the asteroid was about 5.2 million kiolmetres away from our planet, 13 times further away than the moon, NASA says, so there was no risk of it hitting the Earth.NASA say these kinds of occurrences are pretty normal, with an asteroid estimated to be about the same size as 2002 NN4 passing us just last August, and experts at the time called it moderately sized.

The biggest known asteroid that orbits the sun is a whopping 33 kilometres long, Lindley Johnson of NASA’s Planetary Defence Coordination Office told CNN last year.

Astronomers believe it was Asteroid 2002 NN4. (Supplied)

Still, the probability of an asteroid actually hitting Earth is pretty slim — occurring once every two or three centuries, Mr Johnson said at the time.In 2013, a meteor just 17 metres in diameter broke through the Earth’s atmosphere over Russia. The meteor didn’t actually make impact with the planet, but the blast still injured more than 1000 people.Being millions of kilometres away, that wasn’t the case with 2002 NN4.The next time 2002 NN4 will be anywhere near this close to the Earth will be in June 2029.

Astronauts: Falcon 9 rocket was ‘totally different’ ride than the space shuttle

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was a “pure flying machine” compared to the space shuttle, according to the astronauts who rode it into space.

Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken piloted the first manned flight of the Falcon 9 on May 30. Each astronaut had previously been on on two space shuttle missions, and they spoke of their surprise at how comparatively smooth the SpaceX launch was.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft during launch May 30. (NASA/SpaceX)

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft during launch May 30. (NASA/SpaceX)

“From the time the engines lit, the first two-and-a-half minutes to staging was about like we expected, except you can never simulate the Gs, so as the Gs built you could certainly feel those,” Hurley told Spaceflight Now. “What I thought was really neat was how sensitive we were to the throttling of the Merlin engines. That was really neat. You could definitely sense that as we broke Mach 1.”

He added: “We didn’t even need to look at the speed. You could tell just by how the rocket felt, so it’s a very pure flying machine.”

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket climbs into orbit May 30 from the Kennedy Space Center. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket climbs into orbit May 30 from the Kennedy Space Center. Credit: SpaceX

“Remember, [the] shuttle had solid rocket boosters to start with,” Hurley said. “Those burned very rough for the first two-and-a-half minutes. The first stage with Falcon 9 were the nine Merlin engines. It was a much smoother ride, obviously, because it was a liquid engine ascent.”

This photo provided by NASA shows Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, far right, joining the crew at the International Space Station, after the SpaceX Dragon capsule pulled up to the station and docked Sunday, May 31, 2020. The Dragon capsule arrived Sunday morning, hours after a historic liftoff from Florida. It's the first time that a privately built and owned spacecraft has delivered a crew to the orbiting lab. (NASA via AP)

This photo provided by NASA shows Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, far right, joining the crew at the International Space Station, after the SpaceX Dragon capsule pulled up to the station and docked Sunday, May 31, 2020. The Dragon capsule arrived Sunday morning, hours after a historic liftoff from Florida. It’s the first time that a privately built and owned spacecraft has delivered a crew to the orbiting lab. (NASA via AP)

Liquid engine ascent is a reference to the mix of super-chilled kerosene and cryogenic liquid oxygen propellants consumed by the Merlin engines.

After the smooth launch, the astronauts said the second stage felt a bit rougher.

“The biggest difference is just the dynamics that are involved, the vibration, the experiences that we felt actually riding a real rocket,” Behnken said.

“It will be interesting to walk with the SpaceX folks to find out why it was a little bit rougher ride on the second stage than it was for shuttle on those three main engines,” Hurley added.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft was developed to largely function autonomously, handling all prep and docking with the International Space Station following the 19-hour flight.

NASA is also working with Boeing on its manned Starliner capsule, which is expected to launch early next year.

Astronomers Uncover New Clues about Ancient Explosion in Milky Way’s Center

About 3.5 million years ago, a so-called Seyfert flare from Sagittarius A*, Milky Way’s supermassive black hole, created two enormous ionization cones that sliced through our Galaxy, beginning with a relatively small diameter close to Sagittarius A* and expanding vastly as they exited the Milky Way. Now, astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have found that the radiation cone that blasted out of the Milky Way’s south pole lit up a massive ribbon-like gas structure — called the Magellanic Stream — trailing the Milky Way’s two satellite galaxies: the Large Magellanic Cloud and the Small Magellanic Cloud. The flash lit up a portion of the Magellanic Stream, ionizing its hydrogen by stripping atoms of their electrons.

About 3.5 million years, a tremendous explosion rocked the center of our galaxy. Our distant hominid ancestors, already afoot on the African plains, likely would have seen the resulting flare as a ghostly glow high overhead in the night sky. Image credit: NASA / ESA / G. Cecil, UNC, Chapel Hill & J. DePasquale, STScI.

“The flash was so powerful that it lit up the stream like a Christmas tree — it was a cataclysmic event,” said Dr. Andrew Fox, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute.

“This shows us that different regions of the Galaxy are linked — what happens in the Galactic center makes a difference to what happens out in the Magellanic Stream. We’re learning about how the black hole impacts the Galaxy and its environment.”

Dr. Fox and colleagues used Hubble’s Cosmic Origins Spectrograph to probe the stream by using background quasars as light sources.

The astronomers studied sightlines to 21 quasars far behind the Magellanic Stream and 10 behind another feature called the Leading Arm, a tattered and shredded gaseous arm that precedes the Large Magellanic Cloud and the Small Magellanic Cloud in their orbit around the Milky Way.

“When the light from the quasar passes through the gas we’re interested in, some of the light at specific wavelengths gets absorbed by the atoms in the cloud,” said Dr. Elaine Frazer, also from the Space Telescope Science Institute.

“When we look at the quasar light spectrum at specific wavelengths, we see evidence of light absorption that we wouldn’t see if the light hadn’t passed through the cloud. From this, we can draw conclusions about the gas itself.”

An enormous outburst from the vicinity of the Milky Way’s central black hole sent cones of blistering ultraviolet radiation above and below the plane of the Galaxy and deep into space. Image credit: NASA / ESA / L. Hustak, STScI.

The team found evidence that the ions had been created in the Magellanic Stream by an energetic flash.

The burst was so powerful that it lit up the stream, even though this structure is about 200,000 light-years from the Galactic center.

Unlike the Magellanic Stream, the Leading Arm did not show evidence of being lit up by the flare. That makes sense, because the Leading Arm is not sitting right below the south galactic pole, so it was not showered with the burst’s radiation.

The same event that caused the radiation flare also burped hot plasma that is now towering about 30,000 light-years above and below the plane of our Galaxy.

These invisible bubbles, weighing the equivalent of millions of Suns, are called the Fermi Bubbles.

Their energetic gamma-ray glow was discovered in 2010 by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.

In 2015, the researchers used Hubble’s ultraviolet spectroscopy to measure the expansion velocity and composition of the ballooning lobes. Now they managed to stretch Hubble’s reach beyond the bubbles.

“We always thought that the Fermi Bubbles and the Magellanic Stream were separate and unrelated to each other and doing their own things in different parts of the Galaxy’s halo,” Dr. Fox said.

“Now we see that the same powerful flash from our Galaxy’s central black hole has played a major role in both.”

The findings will be published in the Astrophysical Journal.

The ingredients for life appear well before stars are born, researchers say

A newly published study says that the building blocks for life appear in stellar nurseries — areas in deep space where new stars are formed — well before the stars actually form.

The research notes that organic molecules methanol and acetaldehyde have been found in these stellar nurseries “hundreds of thousands of years” before the stars actually form, according to a University of Arizona statement obtained by Fox News. This flies in the face of previous research, which says that proto-stars need to be present before complex organic molecules can be observed.

“These starless cores we looked at are several hundred thousand years away from the initial formation of a protostar or any planets,” said the study’s co-author and University of Arizona astronomy professor Yancy Shirley in a statement. “This tells us that the basic organic chemistry needed for life is present in the raw gas prior to the formation of stars and planets.”

The study’s lead author, Samantha Scibelli, notes that researchers have long debated where and how to look for the building blocks of life and how they end up on planets other than Earth.

“The exact processes at play are still being debated, because the theoretical models still don’t quite match what we see,” Scibelli added. “With this paper, we can better constrain the mechanisms of formation that might be taking place by telling the theorists how abundant these molecules are.”

The findings have been published in The Astrophysical Journal.

As of June 2020, more than 4,000 exoplanets have been identified, including a “mirror image”  of the Earth and sun that was discovered earlier this month.

Scibelli, a graduate student at the university, added that previous research focused on one molecule, methanol, to look for life. In the new study, methanol was found in all 31 of the pre-stellar cones, but 70 percent of them also contained acetaldehyde, which the researchers believe provides “evidence that complex organic molecules are much more widespread in nascent star-forming regions than previously thought.”

“Inside these cores, which we think of as birthplaces, cocoons and nurseries of low-mass stars similar to our sun, the conditions are such that it’s hard to even create these molecules,” Scibelli explained. “By doing surveys like this, we can understand better how precursors to life come into existence, how they migrate and enter solar systems at later stages of star formation.”

The findings in the research and particularly that in the Taurus Molecular Cloud can give researchers new insight into how our own Solar System formed, Scibellia explained.

“Our solar system was born in a cloud like this, but the cloud is not there anymore for us to see,” she said. “Looking at objects in space is a bit like looking at a photo album with snapshots taken of different people at different stages of life, from their baby days all the way to old age, and in our case starless cores serve as stellar sonograms.”

Researchers recently discovered molecular oxygen for the first time ever outside the Solar System, 561 million light-years from Earth in the Markarian 231 galaxy.

Enigmatic Fast Radio Burst Repeats on 157-Day Cycle

A research team led by University of Manchester astronomers has carried out a long-term monitoring campaign of a repeating fast radio burst called FRB 121102 with the 76-m Lovell Telescope and detected a period of 157 days with a duty cycle of 56%.

An artist’s impression of an orbital modulation model where the FRB progenitor (blue) is in an orbit with a companion astrophysical object (pink). Image credit: Kristi Mickaliger.

Fast radio bursts are enigmatic and rarely detected bursts of energy that come from far beyond the Milky Way Galaxy.

These events have durations of milliseconds and exhibit the characteristic dispersion sweep of radio pulsars. They emit as much energy in one millisecond as the Sun emits in 10,000 years, but the physical phenomenon that causes them is unknown.

To date, more than one hundred FRBs have been detected, yet only some of these have so far been observed to repeat.

The first repeater, FRB 121102, was discovered in 2014 though its repeating nature was not revealed until 2016.

In 2017, astronomers pinpointed the location of the FRB 121102 source and reported that it lies in a star-forming region of a dwarf galaxy more than 3 billion light years from Earth.

Now, University of Manchester’s Dr. Kaustubh Rajwade and colleagues have discovered that radio emission from FRB 121102 follows a cyclic pattern, with bursts observed in a window lasting 90 days followed by a silent period of 67 days.

“This is an exciting result as it is only the second system where we believe we see this modulation in burst activity,” Dr. Rajwade said.

“Detecting a periodicity provides an important constraint on the origin of the bursts and the activity cycles could argue against a precessing neutron star.”

To the team’s surprise, the timescale for FRB 121102’s cycle is almost 10 times longer than the 16-day periodicity exhibited by the recently-discovered repeating 

“This exciting discovery highlights how little we know about the origin of FRBs,” said Dr. Duncan Lorimer, a researcher at West Virginia University.

“Further observations of a larger number of FRBs will be needed in order to obtain a clearer picture about these periodic sources and elucidate their origin.”

The results appear in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Planets that have ‘significant airborne dust’ could be home to alien life, study says

Though humanity has yet to discover the presence of extraterrestrial life, that hasn’t stopped astronomers from suggesting the universe is teeming with life. A new study suggests that planets with “significant airborne dust” could be the places to look.

The research, published in the journal Nature Communications, notes that exoplanets (planets outside the Solar System) may have a better shot at having moderate temperatures if they contain a dusty atmosphere, comparing a planet’s topography to the world in the sci-fi classic “Dune.”

“On Earth and Mars, dust storms have both cooling and warming effects on the surface, with the cooling effect typically winning out,” Ian Boutle, Ph.D., lead author of the study, said in a statement. “But these ‘synchronized orbit’ planets are very different. Here, the dark sides of these planets are in perpetual night, and the warming effect wins out, whereas on the dayside, the cooling effect wins out. The effect is to moderate the temperature extremes, thus making the planet more habitable.”

A visualization of three computer simulations of terrestrial exoplanets, showing winds (arrows) and airborne dust (color scale), with an M-dwarf host star in the background. (Credit: Denis Sergeev, University of Exeter)

A visualization of three computer simulations of terrestrial exoplanets, showing winds (arrows) and airborne dust (color scale), with an M-dwarf host star in the background. (Credit: Denis Sergeev, University of Exeter)

The researchers conducted a number of simulations of “terrestrial or Earth-sized exoplanets” using “state-of-the-art” climate models to come up with their findings.

“The inclusion of dust significantly obscures key biomarker gases (e.g. ozone, methane) in simulated transmission spectra, implying an important influence on the interpretation of observations,” the scientists wrote in the study’s abstract. “We demonstrate that future observational and theoretical studies of terrestrial exoplanets must consider the effect of dust.”

The findings add to the number of exoplanets that are able to host life, as well as possibly extending the planet’s “habitable zone,” the distance a planet is from its star where water could exist on the surface.

As of June 2020, more than 4,000 exoplanets have been identified, including a “mirror image”  of the Earth and sun that was discovered earlier this month.

One of the study’s co-authors, University of East Anglia professor Manoj Joshi, said the airborne dust could help support life, but it makes astronomers’ jobs harder in finding that life.

“Airborne dust is something that might keep planets habitable, but also obscures our ability to find signs of life on these planets,” Joshi noted. “These effects need to be considered in future research.”

In early March, an astronomy student from the University of British Columbia discovered 17 new exoplanets, including one that is roughly the same size as Earth.

Known as KIC-7340288 b, the exoplanet is “small enough to be considered rocky” at just 1.5 times the size of Earth, and is in the habitable zone of the star it orbits.

Another recently discovered exoplanet, K2-18b, is also “potentially habitable” and is just 124 light-years from Earth.

In May, a researcher from Columbia University said “the case for a universe teeming with life” is “the favored bet.”

Hidden pattern discovered in repeating radio signal from space

A strange repeating radio signal from space has now been found to have a cycle

A strange repeating radio signal from space has now been found to have a cycle.

New clues have been uncovered in the mystery of fast radio bursts (FRBs) from space. One of these strange signals has been repeating seemingly at random – but with years of observation, an international study has now found a pattern hidden in the noise, which could help reveal what causes them.

FRBs are hugely energetic pulses of radio that last mere milliseconds. Many of them are one-off events, gone in a flash never to be heard from again, while others repeat at random intervals. Or so we thought.

As the first repeater to be found, FRB 121102 is arguably the most famous FRB. Sometimes it whips into a frenzy, firing off dozens of bursts within hours of each other, while other times we won’t hear a peep out of it for months.

Astronomers have been watching it closely since its discovery in 2012, and with that much data, an international team has now found that its activity isn’t random after all. It follows a very regular pattern.

The team studied 32 bursts detected during a four-year observation run, as well as data from previous studies of the object. They found that all of FRB 121102’s emissions occur within a window of about 90 days, before it falls silent for 67 days. Then, the entire 157-day cycle begins again.

“This exciting discovery highlights how little we know about the origin of FRBs,” says Duncan Lorimer an author of the study. “Further observations of a larger number of FRBs will be needed in order to obtain a clearer picture about these periodic sources and elucidate their origin.”

An artist's impression of an orbital model that could be producing the pattern of signals detected from FRB 121102: the radio-emitting object may be in a tight orbit with a massive object like a black hole
An artist’s impression of an orbital model that could be producing the pattern of signals detected from FRB 121102: the radio-emitting object may be in a tight orbit with a massive object like a black hole

This is only the second FRB found to have a repeating pattern. Earlier this year astronomers discovered a signal called FRB 180916, which repeated like clockwork on a 16-day cycle, flaring up regularly for about four days before falling silent for the next 12.

Obviously that’s a much quicker cycle, which raises new questions about what actually causes FRBs. A periodic nature, the team says, might link the phenomenon to orbital motions of objects such as stars, neutron stars and black holes. That’s backed up by the fact that signals from FRB 121102 are extremely twisted and polarized, which could be caused by a massive black hole nearby.

While FRBs remain a mystery for now, every new piece of the puzzle that astronomers discover brings us closer to an answer.

The research was published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Chandra Catches Relativistic Jets from Stellar-Mass Black Hole

Astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have observed a pair of relativistic jets blasting away from a black hole in the binary system MAXI J1820+070.

In this illustration, MAXI J1820+070 pulls material off a neighboring star and into an accretion disk; above the disk is a region of subatomic particles called the corona. Image credit: Aurore Simonnet / NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

MAXI J1820+070, also known as ASASSN-18ey, is a binary system located about 10,000 light-years away in the constellation of Ophiuchus.

This artist’s impression illustrates how high-speed jets from supermassive black holes would look. Image credit: NASA / ESA / Hubble / L. Calçada, ESO.

The black hole has a mass about 8 times that of our Sun. Its companion star has about half the mass of the Sun.

The black hole’s strong gravity pulls material away from the companion star into an X-ray emitting disk surrounding the black hole.

While some of the hot gas in the disk will cross the event horizon and fall into the black hole, some of it is instead blasted away from the black hole in a pair of jets. These jets are pointed in opposite directions, launched from outside the event horizon along magnetic field lines.

MAXI J1820+070’s black hole was discovered during its July 2018 outburst and was extensively monitored across the electromagnetic spectrum.

In November 2018 and February, May, and June of 2019, Université de Paris astronomer Mathilde Espinasse and colleagues used Chandra to observe jets in this system.

The main panel of the graphic is a large optical and infrared image of the Milky Way galaxy from the PanSTARRS optical telescope in Hawaii, with the location of MAXI J1820+070 above the plane of the galaxy marked by a cross. The inset shows the first observation of MAXI J1820+070 by Chandra on November 13, 2018 and the jet launched on July 7, 2018.

“Just how fast are the jets of material moving away from the black hole? From Earth’s perspective, it looks as if the northern jet is moving at 60% the speed of light, while the southern one is traveling at an impossible-sounding 160% of light speed,” the researchers said.

“This is an example of superluminal motion, a phenomenon that occurs when something travels towards us near the speed of light, along a direction close to our line of sight.”

“This means the object travels almost as quickly towards us as the light it generates, giving the illusion that the jet’s motion is more rapid than the speed of light.”

“In the case of MAXI J1820+070, the southern jet is pointing towards us and the northern jet is pointing away from us, so the southern jet appears to be moving faster than the northern one.”

“The actual velocity of the particles in both jets is greater than 80% of the speed of light.”

The team estimates that about 181 million billion kg of material was blown away from the black hole in these two jets launched in 2018.

“This amount of mass is comparable to what could be accumulated on the disk around the black hole in the space of a few hours,” the scientists said.

“Studies of MAXI J1820+070 and similar systems promise to teach us more about the jets produced by stellar-mass black holes and how they release their energy once their jets interact with their surroundings.”

The findings will be published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Scientists discover distant ‘mirror image’ of the Earth and the sun

Scientists have discovered a potentially habitable exoplanet and its star that are a “mirror image” of the Earth and the sun.

Experts from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Göttingen, Germany, led an international team of astronomers in the discovery of the exoplanet-star-pair.

Exoplanet KOI-456.04 is less than twice the size of Earth, but orbits a sun-like star, explains the Max Planck Institute, in a statement. The star is just over 3,000 light-years from the solar system.

A light-year, which measures distance in space, equals about 6 trillion miles.

A view of Earth’s horizon as the sun sets over the Pacific Ocean. This image was taken by an Expedition 7 crew member onboard the International Space Station - file photo.

A view of Earth’s horizon as the sun sets over the Pacific Ocean. This image was taken by an Expedition 7 crew member onboard the International Space Station – file photo. (NASA)

“KOI-456.04 sits in a region of the stellar habitable zone – the distance range around a star admitting liquid surface water on an Earth-like planet – that is comparable to the Earth’s position around the Sun,” the scientists add, in the statement.

Experts also note that KOI-456.04’s host star is unlike the central stars of most other exoplanets.

“Its host star, called Kepler-160, actually emits visible light; the central stars of almost all other exoplanets, on the other hand, emit infrared radiation, are smaller and fainter than the Sun and therefore belong to the class of red dwarf stars,” explains the Institute, in the statement.

The newly discovered planet candidate KOI-456.04 and its star Kepler-160 (second panel from above) have great similarities to Earth and Sun (top panel). (© MPS/René Heller)

The research is published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Scientists used a new search algorithm to discover planet candidate KOI-456.04, which has a 1.9 Earth radii and an orbital period of 378 days. “The surface conditions on KOI-456.04 could be similar to those known on Earth, provided its atmosphere is not too massive and non-Earth-like,” explains the Max Planck Institute, in the statement. “The amount of light received from its host star is about 93 percent of the sunlight received on Earth.”

However, experts also note that more data is needed to formally declare KOI-456.04 a planet. “It cannot currently be ruled out completely that KOI-456.04 is, in fact, a statistical fluke or a systematic measurement error instead of a genuine planet,” they write. “The team estimates the chances of a planetary nature of KOI-456.04 to be about 85 percent pro planet. Obtaining a formal planetary status requires 99 percent.”

The Sonneberg Observatory in Germany, the University of Göttingen, the University of California in Santa Cruz, and NASA also participated in the research.

The Max Planck Institute, along with an international team of astronomers, was recently involved in the discovery of a massive, rotating disk galaxy from the early universe.

Next-Generation Telescopes Could Detect Signs of Life on Rocky Planets around White Dwarfs

A team of astrobiologists from the Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell University has developed a spectral field guide for Earth-like exoplanets transiting small, dense stars called white dwarfs.

An artist’s impression of a rocky exoplanet orbiting a white dwarf. Image credit: Jack Madden / Cornell University.

In just a few years, astronomers — using tools such as the James Webb Space Telescope, the Extremely Large Telescopes, as well as mission concepts like Origins, HabEx, and LUVOIR — will be able to search for life on exoplanets.

White dwarfs are similar in size to Earth and have relatively stable environments for billions of years after initial cooling, making them intriguing targets for exoplanet searches and characterization of terrestrial planet atmospheres.

Their small size and the resulting large planet transit signal allow observations with the upcoming telescopes to probe the atmosphere of such rocky planets, if they exist.

“Rocky planets around white dwarfs are intriguing candidates to characterize because their hosts are not much bigger than Earth-size planets,” said Dr. Lisa Kaltenegger, director of the Carl Sagan Institute.

The trick is to catch an exoplanet’s quick crossing in front of a white dwarf.

“We are hoping for and looking for that kind of transit,” said Thea Kozakis, a doctoral candidate in the Carl Sagan Institute.

“If we observe a transit of that kind of planet, scientists can find out what is in its atmosphere, refer back to this paper, match it to spectral fingerprints and look for signs of life. Publishing this kind of guide allows observers to know what to look for.”

Kozakis, Kaltenegger and their colleague, Zifan Lin, assembled the spectral models for different atmospheres at different temperatures to create a template for possible biosignatures.

“We show what the spectral fingerprints could be and what forthcoming space-based and large terrestrial telescopes can look out for,” Kozakis said.

Chasing down these planets in the habitable zone of white dwarf systems is challenging.

“We wanted to know if light from a white dwarf would allow us to spot life in a planet’s atmosphere if it were there,” Dr. Kaltenegger said.

“Our paper indicates that astronomers should be able to see spectral biosignatures — such as methane in combination with ozone or nitrous oxide — if those signs of life are present.”

“This research expands scientific databases for finding spectral signs of life on exoplanets to forgotten star systems.”

“If we would find signs of life on planets orbiting under the light of long-dead stars, the next intriguing question would be whether life survived the star’s death or started all over again — a second genesis, if you will.”

The team’s paper was published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Mysterious interstellar comet Borisov survived its encounter with the sun, new study says

A new study notes that interstellar comet 2I/Borisov did break up after it came close to the sun, but seems likely to survive and continue its journey through the Solar System.

The research, which can be read here, noted that the comet partially broke up but concluded it was negligible and, with its core intact, it is likely to continue its epic journey throughout space.

“Overall, our observations reveal that the outburst and splitting of the nucleus are minor events involving a negligible fraction of the total mass: 2I/Borisov will survive its passage through the planetary region largely unscathed,” researchers wrote in the study.

The interstellar comet 2I/Borisov, as seen on Oct. 12 with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

The interstellar comet 2I/Borisov, as seen on Oct. 12 with NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. (NASA, ESA and David Jewitt/UCLA)

In December 2019, comet 2I/Borisov reached its closest point to the sun, 190 million miles away, known as perihelion. That same month, the Hubble Space Telescope captured images of the comet.

The fact comet 2I/Borisov broke up but largely remained intact is important, as researchers can now study its composition, ScienceAlert reported.

In October 2019, a separate study confirmed that not only is 2I/Borisov interstellar but it has a “cometary appearance,” with an extended coma, a “slightly reddish color” and a faint, broad tail.

Two-color composite image of comet 2I/Borisov captured by the Gemini North telescope on 10 September 2019. The image was obtained with eight 60-second exposures, four in green and four in red bands. CREDIT Gemini Observatory/NSF/AURA

Two-color composite image of comet 2I/Borisov captured by the Gemini North telescope on 10 September 2019. The image was obtained with eight 60-second exposures, four in green and four in red bands. CREDIT Gemini Observatory/NSF/AURA

It’s unclear where comet 2I/Borisov originated from, but a study published in September 2019 suggested it originated in the binary system 60 Kruger, approximately 13 light-years away. A light-year, which measures distance in space, equals 6 trillion miles.

In September 1019, the International Astronomical Union confirmed that the object was from another solar system, making it the second-known interstellar object. Its predecessor, ‘Oumuamua was first discovered in 2017.

study published in October 2019 suggested it could be carrying water on it from beyond the Solar System, which if true, would be the first time water from outside the Solar System has been detected.

In November 2019, astronomers captured an image of the mysterious comet and its impressive tail, which at nearly 100,000 miles long, is roughly 14 times the size of Earth.

The second interstellar object ever discovered, comet 2I/Borisov was first spotted on Aug. 30, 2019 by astronomer Gennady Borisov.

Unlike ‘Ouamuamua, comet 2I/Borisov will be observable for an extended period of time, an idea that has excited astronomers.

Stadium-sized asteroid set to whiz past Earth, NASA says

A stadium-sized asteroid is set to whiz past Earth this week.

On its Asteroid Watch page, NASA said the 1,100-foot asteroid will fly past Earth on Saturday. The space rock will come within 3.16 million miles of Earth, according to NASA.

Asteroid 163348, or 2002 NN4, is traveling at 11.15 kilometers per second (6.9 miles per second or 24,840 mph), according to NASA.

The space agency classifies asteroid 2002 NN4 as a “potentially hazardous object” because it is larger than 492 feet and traveling within 4.6 million miles of Earth.

A football-sized asteroid – labeled 2018 GE3 – buzzed by Earth on April 16, 2018.

A football-sized asteroid – labeled 2018 GE3 – buzzed by Earth on April 16, 2018. (Texas A&M)

In 2019 a football-field-sized asteroid flew past Earth at more than 30,000 mph.

In 2016, NASA opened a new office to track asteroids and comets that come too close to Earth. The Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) formalized the agency’s prior program for detecting and tracking near-Earth Objects, known as NEOs.

A small chunk of an asteroid or comet is known as a meteoroid. When it enters Earth’s atmosphere, it becomes a meteor, fireball or shooting star. The pieces of rock that hit the ground, valuable to collectors, are called meteorites.

Mars may have been a ringed planet in its ancient past, study suggests

There are four planets in the Solar System that have rings — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. A new study, however, suggests that Mars may have also once been a ringed planet.

The research highlights that one of Mars’ moons, Deimos, has a slightly altered orbit that suggests there was something responsible for its slight tilt.

“The fact that Deimos’s orbit is not exactly in plane with Mars’s equator was considered unimportant, and nobody cared to try to explain it,” said the study’s lead author Matija Ćuk, a research scientist at the SETI Institute, in a statement. “But once we had a big new idea and we looked at it with new eyes, Deimos’s orbital tilt revealed its big secret.”

(Credit: NASA)

(Credit: NASA)

Deimos is slightly tilted by two degrees to the Martian equator.

The researchers noted that the findings came after looking at Mars’ other moon, Phobos, which they note will eventually orbit too low to the planet (in an astronomical time frame) and the Red Planet’s gravity will tear it apart and form a ring around Mars.

The theory that Mars’ moons break up and form rings has another element to it, the researchers noted. “[A] newborn moon would move away from the ring and Mars,” the statement reads. “Which is in the opposite direction from the inward spiral Phobos is experiencing due to gravitational interactions with Mars. An outward-migrating moon just outside the rings can encounter a so-called orbital resonance, in which Deimos’s orbital period is three times that of the other moon.”

The study has been accepted for publication in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Researchers are learning more about Mars’ ancient past. A study published in March suggested the Red Planet had two unique reservoirs of ancient water that once flowed deep beneath the planet’s surface.

NASA is slated to launch the recently renamed Perseverance rover on July 17, 2020. In March, Fox News reported the pandemic had not yet impacted launch preps for the unmanned rover, with work “continuing on schedule.”

The Perseverance rover will attempt to detect if there is any fossilized evidence of extraterrestrial beings, in addition to other tasks.

NASA’s long-term goal is to send a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s.

ASKAP Telescope Traces Four Fast Radio Bursts to Massive Galaxies

Astronomers using the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescope at CSIRO’s Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory have tracked four mysterious blasts of cosmic radio waves back to their home galaxies; all four came from the outer regions of massive galaxies with moderate star-formation rates, ruling out central supermassive black holes and cosmic strings as a source.

Host galaxies of FRBs localized by the ASKAP telescope, from left to right: FRB 190102, FRB 180924, FRB 181112, and FRB 190608. The white circle/ellipse represents the total uncertainty in the FRB position. Image credit: Bhandari et al, doi: 10.3847/2041-8213/ab672e / ESO.

Fast radio bursts (FRBs) are enigmatic and rarely detected bursts of energy that come from far beyond our Milky Way Galaxy.

Lasting several milliseconds, they were first detected at the Parkes radio telescope by Australian astronomers Duncan Lorimer and David Narkevic in 2007.

Scientists estimate that there are between 2,000 and 10,000 FRBs occurring in the sky every day.

They emit as much energy in one millisecond as the Sun emits in 10,000 years, but the processes that cause them are unknown.

Using a specially designed transient detector on ASKAP, CSIRO astronomer Shivani Bhandari and colleagues found the exact location of four new fast radio bursts: FRB 180924, FRB 181112, FRB 190102 and FRB 190608.

Follow-up observations with the Gemini South, ESO’s Very Large Telescope, Magellan Baade, Keck, and LCOGT-1m telescopes imaged and found the distances to the host galaxies.

“Major advances for other transient events have been made by studying their home galaxies,” said Dr. J. Xavier Prochaska, an astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

“We are optimistic that studies like ours will be just as vital.”

The astronomers found FRB 180924, FRB 181112, FRB 190102 and FRB 190608 came from massive galaxies that are forming new stars at a modest rate, very similar to the Milky Way.

Their environment is very different to the host galaxy of the first repeating FRB 121102, which is a starburst dwarf galaxy.

All four new FRBs lie in the outskirts of their galaxies, which appears to rule out the progenitor models that involve active galactic nuclei (i.e. accreting supermassive black holes located in the center of galaxies) or free-floating cosmic strings.

“These precisely localized fast radio bursts came from the outskirts of their home galaxies, removing the possibility that they have anything to do with supermassive black holes,” Dr. Bhandari said.

“These fast radio bursts could not have come from a superluminous stellar explosion, or from cosmic strings,” said CSIRO’s Professor Elaine Sadler.

“Models such as mergers of compact objects like white dwarfs or neutron stars, or flares from magnetars created by such mergers, are still looking good.”

“Positioning the sources of fast radio bursts is a huge technical achievement, and moves the field on enormously,” said Dr. Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, an astrophysicist from Northern Ireland who co-discovered the first radio pulsars in 1967.

“We may not yet be clear exactly what is going on, but now, at last, options are being ruled out. This is a highly significant paper, thoroughly researched and well written.”

The findings were published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Mysterious interstellar ‘Oumuamua could be made of something almost unheard of in science

The mystery surrounding the interstellar object ‘Oumumua seemingly gets weirder by the day.

A new study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, suggests the interstellar object could be made of hydrogen ice. Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, but it’s rarely observed in a solid form.

“We developed a theory that explains all of ‘Oumuamua’s weird properties,” said study co-author Gregory Laughlin, a professor of astronomy in Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, in a statement. “We show that it was likely composed of hydrogen ice. This is a new type of object, but it looks like there may be many more of them showing up, going forward.”

Artist's illustration of 'Oumuamua, the first known interstellar object spotted in our solar system.

Artist’s illustration of ‘Oumuamua, the first known interstellar object spotted in our solar system. (M. Kornmesser/ESO)

The cigar-shaped ‘Oumuamua, which was first discovered in October 2017, is unlike anything researchers had ever seen before, due to its shape, as well as its dry surface.

The research notes that hydrogen ice, which needs extremely cold temperatures, is something that is present in the cores of molecular clouds. Molecular clouds form the basis of stars and the researchers believe ‘Oumuamua could contain hydrogen ice after it passed by one of these molecular clouds in deep space, which could explain its speed.

“As ‘Oumuamua passed close to the Sun and received its warmth, melting hydrogen would have rapidly boiled off the icy surface,” the study’s lead author, Darryl Seligman explained, “providing the observed acceleration and also winnowing ‘Oumuamua down to its weird, elongated shape — much as a bar of soap becomes a thin sliver after many uses in the shower.”

It’s possible that these “hydrogen icebergs” or “hydrogen comets” could be more prevalent in the solar system, which could give researchers new information about how stars and planets form.

“Their presence would be an accurate probe of the conditions in the dark recesses of star-forming clouds and provide a critical new clue for understanding the earliest phases of the still-mysterious processes that generate the birth of stars and their accompanying planets,” Laughlin noted.

The 900-foot long cigar-shaped ‘Oumuamua has led to some researchers to believe it could be an alien probe.

study published in November 2018 from the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics suggested it could be “a lightsail of artificial origin” sent from another civilization.

The researcher who discovered ‘Oumuamua, Canadian physicist and astronomer Robert Weryk, said the idea it was from another civilization was just “wild speculation.”

No longer observable by telescopes as of January 2018, many have speculated what ‘Ouamumua is. In addition to the light sail theory, some have theorized that it is a comet or an asteroid.

The mystery about its exact nature deepened in late 2018, when NASA said it had been looking in ‘Ouamumua’s direction for two months but did not originally see it.


We’re at a really exciting time where the number of crewed vehicles going to the international space station will go from just one to three!. The Soyuz’s 8 year monopoly for getting humans to the ISS is coming to an end. So today we’re going to take a deep dive on the two new spaceships that will be responsible for taking humans to and from the International Space Station from the United States. We’ll compare the Boeing Starliner riding an Atlas V rocket to SpaceX’s Crew Dragon on their Falcon 9 Rocket.SpaceX Crew Dragon Vs Boeing Starliner vs Soyuz vs Space Shuttle comparison commercial crew

Renders by – Reese Carges – @AstroReeseW (Dragon 2/ Falcon 9) and Lionel Oullette – @ArcturusVFX (Starliner / Atlas)

And to see how we’ve progressed in the world of human spaceflight, we’ll also compare all these systems along side Russia’s Soyuz capsule and the United State’s retired Space Shuttle in a side by side comparison. We’ll look at the designs, the rockets they’ll ride, dimensions, cost, safety considerations, and any other unique features that each vehicle offers.

Considering I’ve been up close and personal with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Capsule, and Boeing’s Starliner, I’ve got some good insight on some of these vehicles, so let’s get started!

The International Space Station is still one the greatest feats of human engineering. After all, it’s a football field sized floating laboratory traveling 10 times faster than a bullet, circling the Earth every 90 minutes. It’s taken 33 launches to put all of its pieces into orbit and has been home to over 230 people from almost 20 countries.

ISS crew rotations

The ISS typically has 6 astronauts onboard. Crews are sent in groups of 3 and usually reside at the station for 6 months. There is typically a 3 month overlap for the existing crew and the newly arriving crew. Since the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011, there’s only been a single ride to the ISS. Russia’s Soyuz vehicle.

But we’re coming up on a really exciting time as the United States prepares to send astronauts to the International Space Station from US soil on two brand new spaceships! And what’s super exciting, is NASA has hired private companies to do the development and operations in a new program called the commercial crew program.

The two companies that won contracts are SpaceX and Boeing. I’m not really going to get into how the commercial crew program got started or has progressed in today’s video, I mostly want to talk about the hardware. Each company has a unique approach to how they’ll get crew to the station, so let’s dive into each one and then we’ll compare them to the Soyuz capsule as well as the Space Shuttle to see how much has changed since the ISS was born.

NASA Commercial Crew program SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing Starliner

Starting off with Boeing and their Starliner. Boeing started designing the Starliner, originally known as the CST-100, in 2010 after winning a contract from NASA for the CCDev program. The starliner is a traditional truncated cone capsule design, much like previous spacecraft from the United States. It can carry up to 7 astronauts at a time, although NASA won’t use more than 4 seats at a time.