The sounds are short lived and rare. For over a decade since the first cosmic sounds were detected, astronomers have been left scratching their pate in an attempt to explain the source of the brief yet powerful radio bursts, or signals, emanating from the cosmos.

The explanation of the origin of the signals technically referred to as First Radio Burst has been a matter of fertile imagination ever since the first signal was picked in 2007. Black holes and extra-terrestrials intelligence have been an easy pick for many. However, without any scientifically backed evidence, the given explanations were best to describe as mythical science.

Tracking down the First Radio Burst

The first radio signal was picked up accidentally by a team from West Virginia University, spearheaded by Duncan Lorimer. It was the unprecedented type of sound that was to be ignored by the pioneers who recorded the radio signal. The explanation that was given at that time was hilarious. A microwave oven located in close proximity to the control chamber had been profiled and incriminated as the source of the sound.

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It wasn’t till half a decade later(2012) that similar radio burst signals were picked in Puerto Rico at Arecibo radio station that the Parkes microwave bound explanation was thrashed. It was at this point that serious work began to decipher the mysterious origin of the sounds. The one outstanding feature of both radio sounds picked other than being brief was the fact that they both exhibited a decrease in frequency as they progress. That is as, the sound waning off as it progresses. This feature eventually proved to be the giveaway signal in unearthing the source of the sound. Preliminaries studies that explained the waning sound frequency suggested that the sounds emanated from a distant galaxy.

Exit of Single Single-Dish Radio Telescopes, Enter Multi-Antenna Radio Telescope

Previous studies to exactly pinpoint the location of the source of the radio burst was limited by the use of single dish radio telescopes. The involvement of a telescope with numerous antenna termed as The Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) ushered a new dawn in the field of astronomy.

The eureka moment arrived when the source of the radio burst captured at Arecibo, christened FRB 121102 was documented to be at a distance of 3 billion light years. By any standard of imagination, that is quite a lengthy distance covered by the radio burst. This gives an impression that the burst is full of energy.

Hypothesis of the Cause of Fast Radio Burst

With the location, enigma unraveled the next burning desire was definitely finding the source that was producing the sounds. The continuous burst of radio waves given out by FRB 121102 cleared a lot of earlier held doubts. Postulations that the flashes were as a result of collisions by two black holes were put to rest. The scientific reasoning advanced by Dr. Shami Chatterjee was that a collision of bodies such as black holes would lead to self-destruction hence hindering a possibility of a chain of the Fast Radio Blast that was being captured.

Several different schools have been advanced to explain the origin of the flash. In one of his postulations Dr. Chatterjee, suggests that the source could be activities of an active galactic nucleus.  Another plausible explanation given for the source of the flashes is the activities of a neutron star (magnetar). Around the star is a magnetic field that drives it during which power is lost through the energy bursts.

With currents studies still ongoing, a lot remains to be unearthed. Major milestones have been achieved in the quest to establish the source of the fast radio burst. Alien civilization remains a highly debatable scientific thought in an attempt to explain the source of the flashes. A team tasked with Extra-terrestrial Intelligence search is making strides towards their mandate. Hold your breath as we await patiently for their report to either refute alien civilization or buttress it. Only time will tell!

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