- Scientists have discovered regularly recurring “mysterious signals” from an unidentified source 500 million light-years away, the MIT Technology Review reported on Monday.
- The signal is called a “fast radio burst.” The source of an FRB is very difficult to locate.
- But there’s nothing to suggest that the signals are from aliens.
Deep in outer space, in a spiral galaxy 500 million light-years away, radio signals are being emitted from an unidentified source.
That’s according to a new paper by a team of astrophysicists in Canada that identified a “fast radio burst,” or a short radio emission, with a 16-day cycle.
The source of an FRB is difficult to locate, let alone study. And since 2007, only 10 such signals have been identified as repeating, according to Phys.org, a science-news website.
This latest FRB, first detected in September 2018, is “the first time scientists have been able to see a specific tempo from one of these mysterious signals,” the MIT Technology Review’s Neel Patel reported on Monday.
“The discovery of a 16.35-day periodicity in a repeating FRB source is an important clue to the nature of this object,” the scientists said in the paper.
The researchers observed the FRB for 13 months, detecting 28 additional bursts that came over a four-day period followed by 12 days of silence. So they determined that the signal’s cycle was just over 16 days.
The source of these ‘mysterious signals’ is unknown
According to Patel, the source could be a celestial body orbiting another object, like a “low-mass black hole.”
A separate team of researchers who examined the data on the 16-day FRB suggested it could be the result of a binary system, with two massive stars orbiting each other.
It could also be “nothing more than the noise created when two stars collide,” according to Phys.org.
So, is it aliens?
That seems unlikely.
The signals indicate massive energy shifts in the universe. Patel said it was hard to imagine even aliens creating those.
“There is no detectable pattern so far that would suggest there’s a sentient hand at play,” Patel wrote, adding that “even a highly intelligent species would be very unlikely to produce energies like this.”
The mystery isn’t atypical for a discovery like this. Astrophysicists regularly detect radio signals from deep space without being able to identify their source.