Are these mystery signals messages from ALIENS?
Strange radio waves could be coming from a distant planet, say scientists
Scientists are trying to work out what is causing fast radio bursts (FRBs)
The strange signals occur for a few milliseconds and come from nowhere
Latest signals picked up in Australia included a new double blast pattern
This rules out some other explanations for FRBs, such as star mergers
Five mysterious signals coming from outside the Milky Way may have been sent by an alien civilisation.
At least that’s one of the theories astronomers are using to explain the appearance of a new series of ‘fast radio bursts’.
So far, only 11 of these strange radio pulses have been recorded before around the world.
The latest signals, which was picked up by the Parkes radio telescope in Australia, included a new double blast accompanied by four ‘single’ bursts.
Emily Petroff from Swinburne University, who helped discover the pulses, has suggested this pattern may lead to an important discovery.
She tweeted: ‘We have no idea what’s going on, but we know it’s definitely something cool.’
Fast radio bursts, or FRBs, are radio emissions that appear temporarily and randomly, making them not only hard to find, but also hard to study.
The mystery stems from the fact it is not known what could produce such a short and sharp burst.
This has led some to speculate they could be anything from stars colliding to artificially created messages. Scientists believe they originate several billion light-years beyond the Milky way.
The latest discovery, reported in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, has got astronomers excited because it has a ‘clear two-component profile’.
They say each burst was separated by 2.4 milliseconds.
The team added: ‘Many of the proposed models to explain FRBs use a single high energy event involving compact objects (such as neutron star mergers) and therefore cannot easily explain a two-component FRB.’
Similar readings of something known as perytons excited astronomers earlier this year.
It was later discovered, however, that the signals were from microwave ovens on Earth being opened in the canteens of the observatories.
The first FRB was spotted, or rather ‘heard’ by radio telescopes, back in 2007.
But it was so temporary and seemingly random that it took years for astronomers to agree it wasn’t a glitch in one of the telescope’s instruments.
The signal, which lasted just five milliseconds, was named the Lorimer burst after its discoverer, Duncan Lorimer.
The radio emission was so dispersed, experts suggested it must have come from a great distance away, possibly billions of light-years.
But early estimates said there should be 10,000 of these events a day – so the fact that another wasn’t discovered until 2012 was troubling.
This was when data from the Parkes Radio Telescope in Australia suggested it had heard another FRB, along with a handful of others.
But the fact that only Parkes had detected the signals had some claiming these were merely instrument glitches.
A discovery of of an FRB using the giant radio dish in Puerto Rico last year confirmed to astronomers that these signals are indeed real – but they’re no closer to finding out an answer as to what they are.
While this is the 11th FRB to be detected, it is the first one to contain a double blast.
The latest discovery is being compared in important to the famous ‘Wow signal’ which was picked up by Jerry Ehman in 1977.