In Brief

Are radio bursts from deep space signs of alien life?

Repeating bursts of radio waves detected for second time in history

Astronomers have been able to detect repeating energy bursts from deep space for the second time in history.

Fast radio bursts, known as FRBs, are millisecond-long pulses of radio waves thought to be generated by “powerful astrophysical phenomena emanating from billions of light years outside our galaxy”, says The Guardian.

It could be from black holes, or super-dense neutron stars merging together, or as some have even posited “they could be evidence of incredibly advanced alien technology”, says the newspaper.

According to a study published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, this is only the second time that FRBs have been recorded. It came six times from the same location, 1.5 billion light-years away.

“This is one of the very first detections made by the new Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, or Chime,” says CNN. “The radio telescope was still in its pre-commissioning phase and operating with only a small amount of its full capacity in the summer of 2018 when it detected this and 12 singular fast radio bursts.”

Ingrid Stairs, a member of the Chime team and an astrophysicist at the University of British Columbia, said: “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.”

Professor Avi Loeb, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said in 2017: “Fast radio bursts are exceedingly bright given their short duration and origin at great distances, and we haven't identified a possible natural source with any confidence. An artificial origin is worth contemplating and checking.”

Asked if he really believes that any FRBs are due to aliens, he replied: “Science isn’t a matter of belief, it’s a matter of evidence. Deciding what’s likely ahead of time limits the possibilities. It’s worth putting ideas out there and letting the data be the judge.”

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