Mysterious waves have been transmitting from farther away than we can wrap our heads around, and they’re strong enough to be detected here on Earth. Could this be proof of alien life? These ultra-brief repeating energy bursts are called FRBs. That is, Fast Radio Bursts, for short. These bursts of energy have been detected and found repeating once prior in all human history. The fact that they’re back again, during the summer of 2018, opens the door to more theories, research, and wild speculation.
These FRBs could be generated by powerful astrophysical phenomena. The fact that they’re origin has been identified as being over 1.5 billion light years away means that it is well beyond our own local galaxy, the Milky Way. One possible explanation could be that somewhere out there, a super dense neutron star is imploding on itself. Another possibility could also be that a star could has orbited to close to a super massive black hole and what we are detecting is the sound of that star being torn apart.
This most recent FRB was detected by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment telescope. Many FRBs have been recorded by this telescope in the past but only this and one other have been found to repeat. This time the signal repeated 13 times at only a millisecond each. The FRB was described as “surprisingly bright” given that it had to travel so far to reach our equipment. The original FRB was emitted at 500 times the energy of the Sun. Scientists speculate that other repeating FRBs may pass by our planet more frequently but at a frequency so low that our equipment is unable to detect it. Our mysterious FRB was recorded at an extremely low frequency which leads scientists to believe that there may be more, even lower.
No, this not referring to the mysterious radio signal of 1998. That signal was detected, studied, and toiled over for 17 years, only to find that it was generated by the employee microwave warming up lunches in the breakroom. That signal was not repeating, not as strong, and not an FRB. Scientists thought that the 1988 signal was coming from our local atmosphere, possibly by lightning strikes, they just didn’t know quite how local is really was.
As far as our modern-day FRB, we still have no known cause and only a few proposed explanations. The possibility of alien life is not off the table. One way or another, we must continue to advance our own technology before we can gain any new insights about the bursts. For now, the only thing left to do wait and listen. However, with two FRBs now on the books, scientists think it’s only a matter of time before we can hear more signals that will give us new information.