ET may very well be calling home, as scientists have detected 25 mysterious ‘rapid radio bursts’ from space.
These blasts of powerful radiation were picked up between 2019 and 2021 by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) radio telescope.
It is currently unknown what produces fast radio bursts, or FRBs, but it is generally accepted that they are emitted from dying stars in distant galaxies.
What makes the new FRBs special is that they “repeat” — according to University of Toronto astronomers, multiple outbursts came from the same location in space.
So far, many more non-repeating FRBs have been detected than repetitive FRBs, but the latter type has the potential to provide more information about where they come from.
These blasts of powerful radiation were picked up between 2019 and 2021 by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) radio telescope (pictured)
What makes the new FRBs, analyzed by astronomers at the University of Toronto, special is that they “repeat” — multiple bursts came from the same location in space. Pictured: aerial distribution of repetitive sources of FRBs. Orange diamonds represent the 25 newly discovered FRBs, while others were already known
WHAT ARE “FAST RADIO BURSTS”?
FRBs have baffled researchers for years, appearing as fleeting signals from the distant universe that cannot yet be definitively explained.
It is thought that these short flashes could be from black holes or neutron stars, although some have even speculated that they could be of extraterrestrial origin.
The first FRB was spotted, or rather “heard,” by radio telescopes in 2001, but was not discovered until 2007 when scientists were analyzing archival data.
But it was so temporary and seemingly random that it took astronomers years to agree it wasn’t a malfunction in one of the telescope’s instruments.
This is because they give scientists the opportunity to study eruptions from one location with different instruments and collect different data.
The newly discovered phenomena have brought the total number of known repeating FRBs to 50.
“FRBs are likely produced by the remnants of explosive stellar deaths,” said study co-author Dr Ziggy Pleunis.
‘By studying repeating FRB sources in detail, we can study the environments in which these explosions occur and better understand the terminal stages of a star’s life.
“We can also learn more about the material that is ejected before and during the death of the star, which is then sent back to the galaxies in which the FRBs live.”
FRBs are strangely bright flashes of light that register in the radio band of the electromagnetic spectrum and appear momentarily and randomly from space.
If a single FRB goes off, it contains 10 trillion times the annual energy consumption of the entire world’s population.
The flashes are so powerful that radio telescopes can detect them more than four billion light-years away.
Possibly from black holes or neutron stars, they range from a fraction of a millisecond to several seconds before disappearing without a trace.
In 2017, a team from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said they could have come from distant alien transmitters that power interstellar probes.
They are not uncommon and come from all over the sky, but have perplexed researchers for years because their cause is little understood.
Studying FRBs is difficult because no one knows where in the sky the next eruption will occur.
Many more non-repeating FRBs have been detected so far than repetitive ones, but the latter type has the potential to provide more information about where they come from Image: Detection timeline for 46 repetitive sources of FRBs picked up by the CHIME telescope
Non-repeating FRBs – which only ‘burst’ once from their original location – are much more likely to be detected than repeating FRBs.
This has led scientists to speculate that they are each produced by something different.
They also differ in other ways; repeating FRBs usually come from dwarf galaxies, but non-repeating FRBs come from many different types of galaxies.
Repeating FRBs tend to be less energetic and do not last as long as non-repeating FRBs, and also have a different frequency range.
The new study, published in The Astrophysical Journalpresents the discovery of 25 new repeating FRBs detected between September 30, 2019 and May 1, 2021 – doubling the known total.
Researchers reanalyzed all previously known repeating FRBs, as well as the ones they were unsure of with new statistical tools.
These helped confirm whether or not the outbursts came from the same galaxy, and thus whether they were indeed repeating FRBs.
The team not only confirmed that 25 FRBs repeat, but also found that many of them are “surprisingly inactive,” producing less than one burst per week.
This suggests that all FRBs could actually be repeating, as the non-repeating ones have simply not been observed long enough to pick up their second burst.
The team hopes their findings could lead to a definitive answer to what exactly produces an FRB.
Adaeze Ibik, a PhD student and co-author, said: ‘It is exciting that CHIME/FRB saw multiple flashes from the same locations, as this allows for a detailed investigation of their nature.
“We were able to narrow down some of these repetitive sources and have already identified likely associated galaxies for two of them.”
Aliens could make contact with Earth by 2029, scientists say
For those who feared scientists wouldn’t find aliens in their lifetime, you might be in luck.
A team of scientists from the University of California believes aliens could make contact with Earth as early as 2029.
In 2002, NASA sent radio waves to the Pioneer 12 probe in a routine protocol to transmit data and ensure communications were established.
This signal also reached a star about 27 light-years from our planet as the transmission spreads when they come into contact with an object.
The UC researchers hope that this signal was intercepted by aliens calling back to Earth.
Read more here