These signals are very short and originate from outside of our galaxy, the Milky Way.
They are baffling astronomers and the nature of the objects remains unexplained.
Are the signals natural or artificial in origin? Is it possible an extraterrestrial civilization is sending them or are we witnessing an unknown astronomical phenomenon?
We have previously discussed the possibility raised by astrophysicists that some extraterrestrial civilizations could send us signals by manipulating starlight. This means that there could alien messages concealed in the stars.
Several years ago, we picked up a mysterious signal from outer space that has never been explained. The signal was heard on three different occasions and originated in a region of space between the constellations Pisces and Aries.
We can assume that advanced extraterrestrial civilizations can appreciate the benefits of transmitting into space, as a good means of establishing communication with other intelligent alien life-form.
Humans are eager to learn about other alien civilizations and one way to contact other alien cultures is through interstellar signals. However, we should ask ourselves if transmitting radio messages into space pose a risk to human civilization?
Space is filled with sound that we cannot easily identify. It is a very complex task to determine what is of natural or artificial origin.
The burst energetics indicate that they originate from an extreme astrophysical event involving relativistic objects such as neutron stars or black holes.
“A single burst of radio emission of unknown origin was detected outside our Galaxy about six years ago but no one was certain what it was or even if it was real, so we have spent the last four years searching for more of these explosive, short-duration radio bursts,” said Dan Thornton at the University of Manchester.
This brings us to the astronomical phenomena known as “fast radio transients”, which are objects and events that emit radio waves on ultra-short timescales.
These objects could include flares coming from stars, collisions between black holes, lightning on other planets, and RRATs – Rotating RAdio Transients, pulsars that only fire up when they feel like it. More speculatively, some scientists believe extraterrestrial civilizations could be flashing fast radio beacons into space.
While searching for pulsars back in 2007, astronomer Duncan Lorimer accidentally came across something unexpected and unexplainable – a burst of radio waves appearing to come from outside our galaxy, lasting just 5 milliseconds but possessing as much energy as the sun releases in 30 days.
A pulsar is a rotating neutron star. Neutron stars are the collapsed remains of massive stars which have mass greater than 4 to 8 times that of our Sun. After these stars have finished burning their nuclear fuel, they undergo a supernova explosion.
Neutron stars are on average only about 30km in diameter, but they have hugely powerful surface magnetic fields, billions of times that of our Sun. Sometimes it can be very difficult to decide whether astronomers detected unusual pulsar or alien signals.
“The awareness of these short signals has long existed,” said Andrew Siemion, who searches the time domain for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence at seti. “But it’s only the past decade or so that we’ve had the computational capacity to look for them.”
Scientists are speculating what these burst may be. Some think it is new kind of source. Other theorists suggest that it was a primordial black hole evaporating or a ‘spark’ from a superconducting cosmic string.
Could they be signals sent from an extraterrestrials civilization that is searching the galaxy for other intelligent species? Duncan Lorimer, professor of physics at West Virginia University is doubtful the bursts are artificial.
“I think that becomes unlikely now that there’s more than one of them. With one source, you could always think about it as some sort of single civilization. But now, you’re seeing them, essentially, at different parts of the sky. It’s very unlikely that different civilizations would be sending things in exactly the same way.
So I think it’s something natural in origin, and that – it’s really the time scale is the biggest clue to the size of the object, because it’s only a few milliseconds in size. The emitting region can only be a few light-milliseconds across. And so that points to some sort of compact, star like a black hole or a neutron star where, potentially, there’s large amounts of energy can be released,” Lorimer said.
The Lorimer bursts are difficult to study. “The radio telescopes that found them have very small fields of view, and the bursts themselves don’t last very long. And it’s becoming clear from these recent results that the bursts could be going off in – over the entire sky about once every 10 seconds,” Lorimer said.
Astronomers have yet another mystery to add to their list of fascinating phenomena. The mysterious radio bursts from deep space remain unexplained for the time being. “It’s quite a puzzle as to what’s producing these events so often, ” Lorimer said
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