Alien-hunting Breakthrough Listen project tracks unusual series of 15 radio bursts

Alien-hunting Breakthrough Listen project tracks unusual series of 15 radio bursts

Alien-hunting Breakthrough Listen project tracks unusual series of 15 radio bursts

The location of FRB 121102 has already been previously traced to a dwarf galaxy about 3 billion light years away, but what exactly might be sending out such strong signals from there remains a mystery.

According to a study that described their findings, this was the first time that repeating FRBs have been seen coming from this source at these frequencies. The signals were so strong that the Breakthrough Listen team sent out an astronomer's telegram urging the scientific community to check it out, saying "these observations may indicate FRB 121102 is now in a heightened activity state, and follow-on observations are encouraged".

To clarify, FRBs are brief, bright pulses of radio waves that are periodically detected coming from distant galaxies. It's called a fast radio burst. or FRB. Suggested explanations include everything from neutron star outbursts to alien civilizations using some form of directed energy to propel a spacecraft.

Breakthrough Listen, a global astronomical initiative launched in 2015 by Internet investor and philanthropist Yuri Milner and cosmologist Stephen Hawking, is also observing nearby stars and galaxies for signatures of extraterrestrial technology. "The new data are likely to be helpful in figuring out what's going on here, but of course it could be that this particular object is a member of an "FRB subspecies" - and not typical of most of these weird cosmic screamers", he says.

In the process of trying to observe FRB-121102 Astronomers ended up overcoming with the new bursts. In 2016, astronomers tracked its origin to a dwarf galaxy about 3 billion light years away.

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It added: "Life on Earth consisted of only single-celled organisms, and it would be another billion years before even the simplest multi-cellular life began to evolve".

"The distinctive shape that the dispersion imposes on the initial pulse is an indicator of the amount of material between us and the source, and hence an indicator of the distance to the host galaxy", Breakthrough said in its report.

"As well as confirming that the source is in a newly active state, the high resolution of the data obtained by the Listen instrument will allow measurement of the properties of these mysterious bursts at a higher precision than ever possible before", said the Breakthrough Listen statement. Breakthrough Listen is the biggest initiative till date that aims to find evidence of extraterrestrial life forms.

Despite scientists found that these 15 FRBs repeated one by one, they have also observed others that re-appeared within a longer period of time. FRBs are recorded by radio telescopes surveying the sky at radio wavelengths and are considered to last less than five milliseconds. Perhaps some ancient intelligent species was clued in to the emergence of life on our planet and knew that a signal sent would reach us just as we were becoming technologically sophisticated for the first time?

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