Scientists Left Baffled As Repeated Radio Signals Are Transmitted To Earth
A number of scientists have been left scratching their heads after discovering what is said to be the first ever reliable pattern of radio bursts from deep space.
Located approximately 500 million lightyears away from earth, a mystery object has led to the phenomenon, causing transmitted signals to be sent every 16 days.
Now before you start getting those tin foil hats on, the scientists are ruling out the potential for alien contact.
Leon Oostrum at the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy told New Scientist: "If it were an alien beacon I would think it would emit more quickly, because a 16-day period is not efficient for communication.
"Imagine getting one signal every 16 days - it would take forever to get a message."
So no, we're not about to experience a real-life version of Mars Attacks.
Nonetheless, the discovery marks a significant moment for the astrophysicists who noticed the pattern in data from the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment radio telescope in British Columbia.
In the first case of its kind, a blast of fast radio bursts (or FRBs) were emitted around one to two times per hour for four days before going silent for 12 days.
As reported by Science News, over 100 FRBs have been noted since 2007, although only ten have been seen to repeat this cycle. The signals have been tracked to a spiral galaxy nearly 500 million lightyears away from our planet.
Duncan Lorimer, an astrophysicist at West Virginia University in Morgantown, told the publication: "This is very significant. It's potentially going to take us in an interesting direction to get to the bottom of these repeaters."
One theory is the radio bursts are orbiting something else like a star or black hole, or that stellar winds might periodically boost or block the radio pulses.
There's also potential that the 16-day cycle could lead to more repeated transmissions of its kind.
Lorimer explained: "The fact that they detected periodicity on this one hints that other ones will have periodicity as well."
The first FRB was discovered by Lorimer and his student David Narkevic in 2007 when they were looking through archival pulsar survey data.
Although the exact origin and cause is not certain, fast radio bursts are believed to be caused outside of the Milky Way and researchers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics say they can be used to study the structure and evolution of the universe.
Featured Image Credit: CHIME