Blast of radio waves makes waves among astronomers

A mystery…

Astronomers Catch Mysterious Radio Blast From the Distant Universe

Coming from far beyond the galaxy, an extremely energetic blast of radio waves has been snared by astronomers lying in wait. Lasting for just a few thousandths of a second, the burst is the first of an enigmatic class of objects to be observed in real-time, astronomers report today in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Called fast radio bursts, these extreme pulses of energy last for just a fraction of a second. They’ve confounded astronomers – who have no idea what they are – since West Virginia University’s Duncan Lorimer spotted the first burst in 2007. At the time, it appeared as though the beam of radio waves had traveled roughly 3 billion light-years before colliding with Earth.

Then, on May 14, 2014, Swinburne University’s Emily Petroff spotted a fast radio burst in the act of blasting. She and her colleagues determined the signal came from as far as 5.5 billion light-years away and was mildly polarized, suggesting a magnetic field somewhere near its origin has aligned the waves in particular directions.

Petroff was looking at these bursts, using an array of telescopes to monitor the zone. There is no easily identifiable astrophysical source, such as supernovas or long gamma-ray bursts.

Scientists don’t yet know how to explain them. Some of those theories mentioned in this blog include colliding black holes or neutron stars, evaporating primordial black holes, imploding neutron stars, or enormous flares erupting from magnetic neutron stars, called magnetars.

Some news outlets are stepping right out and calling it potential alien communication: Mystery ‘alien’ radio signal picked up in space – Telegraph. NPR had reported on similar bursts detected last year. I don’t think that the alien communication idea is getting much traction.

Here is the paper: [1412.0342] A real-time fast radio burst: polarization detection and multiwavelength follow-up.

  6 comments for “Blast of radio waves makes waves among astronomers

  1. Jeff
    January 20, 2015 at 8:29 PM

    The article left me with more questions about the processes used at these facilities to eliminate local “noise” and make a determination that the origin is distant. I will confess that I expected Nadia Drake to tow us into the SETI realm. Glad we stopped short.

  2. Omxqru
    January 20, 2015 at 9:16 PM

    Since no logical explanation has been posited up ’til now, I must say it is obviously the ghost of Bigfeet.

  3. MikeXeno
    January 21, 2015 at 11:10 AM

    I remember when I first read about pulsars as a child that when they were first discovered, they were called “LGMs” for Little Green Men. It was meant as a joke between astronomers, but some people picked it up and ran with it, saying they must be alien signals; anything so precisely regular HAD to be artificial. The astronomers logically pointed out that the extreme regularity made it very UNlikely that they were of intelligent origin, since the signals contained almost no information; anything intelligent enough to send signals of such power across space would have to be incredibly stupid to also use those signals to say absolutely nothing.

    We have a similar situation here; theses radio bursts, if they are messages, are messages which say nothing at all. Why would anyone do that? But, there will always be those who, when they hear hoofbeats, will insist that it must be unicorns and won’t even consider that it’s probably just horses.

  4. busterggi
    January 21, 2015 at 1:20 PM

    Another Infinity Stone found.

  5. Race Bannon
    January 22, 2015 at 2:40 PM

    I THOUGHT I felt a disturbance in the Force.

  6. Dubious f
    January 25, 2015 at 10:05 PM

    If I had the technology to call another world, at some point, I’d like a reply. To me, I’d like it to be brief, readable and concise for energy and all. A fraction of second…. Their sun is dense and they are moving so very slowly obviously! But unlikely… Look closer

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