A Canadian-led team of astronomers has observed strange repeating radio waves coming from deep space for just the second time ever. Known as “fast radio bursts,” (FRBs) the repeating nature of the waves makes it possible to track its source, if only for a brief moment.
While a bunch of FRBs have been detected previously, this is only the second time one’s been observed to repeat itself. The first signal to do this was named FRB 112102 and was observed by accident in 2007. They’re milliseconds in length and are typically thought to come from powerful space shit like black holes or super-dense neutron stars, but some researchers reckon they could even be evidence of advanced alien civilisations. Now we’re talking.
“Until now, there was only one known repeating FRB. Knowing that there is another suggests that there could be more out there,” University of British Columbia astrophysicist, Ingrid Stairs, said in a statement. “And with more repeaters and more sources available for study, we may be able to understand these cosmic puzzles — where they’re from and what causes them.”
The team – who have been specifically looking for FRBs – also noted that all of the new signals observed have been under 800 MHz, which is much lower than the previously detected frequencies, which hovered around the 1,400 MHz area.
“By detecting and characterizing fast radio bursts at different frequencies, we can understand better which theories work and which do not,” post-doctoral fellow at McGill University, Shriharsh Tendulkar, told Cnet. One such theory for 112102 is that it could be “very strongly magnetized, rapidly spinning neutron star,” but it’s simply too early to know for sure.
I think we’re all secretly hoping it’s aliens, and some experts think that’s worth considering. As Professor Abraham Loeb of Harvard University said in 2017, “an artificial origin is worth contemplating and checking.” He even reckons the FRBs could be coming from “planet-sized alien transmitters,” The Guardian reports. Hell yeah.
One member of the team, Dr Cherry Ng, says the latest FRBs could be coming from “some sort of dense clump like a supernova [exploding star] remnant. Or near the central black hole in a galaxy. But it has to be in some special place to give us all the scattering that we see.”
A special place indeed. Whether it’s aliens or not, it’s pretty damn cool.