Past Issues Stifle Research
For close to a decade, scientists have been trying to work out the origin of mysterious and explosive radio signals in the universe known as fast radio bursts or (FRBs).
These FRBs appear only temporarily and at random, which makes them hard to find and thus even harder to study.
At first, scientists thought these signals were being generated on Earth and misidentified as being from space. Now, researchers from Australia claim they have ruled out the potential for any interference from Earth, which means they are indeed space born.
Lasting only milliseconds, these energy bursts are about one billion times more luminous as compared to anything ever seen in the Milky Way and they seem to be traveling across vast distances.
Past Issues Stifle Research
These bizarre signals sometimes seem to line up in a strange arrangement and come from one particular origin leading some to suggests they could be signs of extraterrestrial communication. However, this was debunked in the past when studies ran into a wall almost literally.
Back in 1998, researchers thought they had discovered a new type of radio signal originating from space, only to find out 17 years later in 2015 that the signals were, in fact, coming from a microwave oven in their research facility.
The main reason the origin of these radio signals can be a bit tricky to pin down is that they are often found using single-dish telescopes which can get a lot without providing perspective on where they are originating from.
One researcher has been quoted saying conventional single dish telescopes have a hard time establishing that transmissions come from beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. To deal with this issue and rule out the terrestrial interference as the source of the Fast Radio Bursts, researchers turned to the Molonglo telescope within the Australian Capital Territory.
It has a collecting area of about 18,000 square meters. Because of its architecture, it is also not possible to pick up signals coming from within the atmosphere which is ideal for this.
Molonglo Telescope Provides Needed Breakthrough
The scientists came to this conclusion of FRBs not being from Earth after detecting three of them using Molonglo radio telescope, which sits outside of Canberra.This telescope has a big focal length allowing it to look at large parts of the sky which make it perfect for catching these radio bursts that come intermittently.
Unlike other single dish telescopes which are very good at picking up signals coming from the Earth, Molonglo can filter out traffic from within the atmosphere.
After going through thousands of terabytes of data collected by the telescope, the team was able to find 3 FRBs located within a dwarf galaxy that is 3 billion light years away. Since the cosmic origin of these Fast Radio Bursts has been found, astronomers should now get to work trying to solve what these mysterious signals are and why they occur.
Doctoral candidate Manisha Caleb claims, “Figuring out where the bursts come from is the key to understanding what makes them. Only one burst has been linked to a specific galaxy.”
Bottom line, this new reveal puts things back on the query of off-world intelligence, and this is a big deal.