Could we be talking to Aliens soon?
These fast radio bursts (FRBs) from a single source have gotten the astronomers excited
We have always wondered if we are alone out here in the vast expanse of the Universe. Over the years, we have gotten close to finding the answer to that longstanding question with extensive research and equipped with better technology. The quest for communicating with a possible alien civilization started off with SETI — Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. The project started off in 1959 with a search for radio signals from other intelligent species in Space.
Why radio signals? Well, they travel at the speed of light, day or night without being absorbed by any medium in between. They are the best method of getting a message across in the interstellar space. Not only have we have been studying patterns in radio waves ourselves from the global network of satellites, but we have also been sending them out in space for the past 60 years in the hopes of an alien civilization getting them.
It was a long wait before the first sounds of presumed alien communication were heard by astronomer Jerry Ehman using Ohio State University’s Big Ear radio telescope in 1977. The 72-second burst of radio waves left the following readings (below) which were circled by Ehman with his infamous “Wow!” observation. The landmark “Wow message” became an unofficial proof for many as the existence of alien life. The scientific community has been active ever since looking for solid proof to prove this hypothesis.
Astronomers detected a high-energy radio signal from a galaxy far beyond ours in 2007. Since the reading was recorded without any astronomical explanation, it got the scientists wondering whether it was a message from an alien civilization. Since then, researchers have detected dozens of these so-called fast radio bursts (FRBs). Unlike some of the previous radio signals, the recent ones showed multiple signals coming from a single source.
While astronomers had only received these multiple signals from a single source only twice before, eight new observations of these repeating FRBs could help them understand the origins of the strange phenomenon even better as reported by Science Alert.
The international team of astronomers which led the discovery have laid out their findings in a newly published paper. Of the eight FRBs — six repeated only once, one repeated three times and the eighth one produced 10 bursts. These signals were detected using the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment radio (CHIME) telescope.
Apart from measuring an increased number of known repeating FRBs, the new research also gives us information on duration, frequency drift & polarisation of these signals. The polarisation (how twisted is the signal) tells us if the radio bursts originated from an extreme magnetic environment like a black hole or a neutron star — which is usually the case.
Interestingly, the polarization of one of the new signals, FRB 180916 was found to be really low suggesting that repeating FRBs didn’t originate from an extreme environment — may be an exoplanet or another habitable source. Nothing to get excited about just yet. We don’t know why & if these signals repeat and there might very well be other classes of objects in the Cosmos producing these radio signals.
Nevertheless, it brings us one step closer to finding the answer to the burning question — whether we would be able to communicate with an alien race soon?