Astronomers detect 15 signals from mysterious object in distant galaxy

Mysterious signal from deep space goes hyperactive

As revealed by Astronomers Telegram, the investigation of the data explored the presence of the new repeating radio bursts and also showed that the source is located in a "heightened movement state".

In July 2015, Russian billionaire Yuri Milner announced the creation of Breakthrough Listen, a decade-long project that would conduct the largest survey to date for signs of extra-terrestrial communications (ETI).

To clarify, FRBs are brief, bright pulses of radio waves that are periodically detected coming from distant galaxies.

There's a caveat here; three billion light years away means that whatever happened in that galaxy was going on when single-celled organisms were starting to evolve on Earth.

Scientists with Breakthrough Listen say they've found 15 fast radio bursts, or FRBs, from a deep space "repeater" called FRB 121102.

Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the California-based SETI Institute, told GeekWire that FRB 121102 is the "one burster that it pays to observe", because it's the only source of fast radio bursts that's been known to repeat.

"FRB 121102 was discovered on November 2, 2012, which gives it the name (121102)". However, some have dared to venture that the bursts from FRB 121102 could conceivably originate from huge transmitters powering an interstellar spacecraft.

The Breakthrough Listen initiative captured the 15 fast radio bursts coming from a very faraway dwarf galaxy beyond the Milky Way, located in 3 billion light-years away. This is the first time bursts from this source have been seen at these frequencies. However, it's extremely certain that these radio signals started they journey long before multi-cellular life even existed on Earth.

The instrument accumulated 400 terabytes (a million million bytes) of data over a five-hour period, observing across the entire 4 to 8 GHz frequency band. 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.

Another idea was that these high-energy pulses were thrown off by cataclysmic events like supernovae, but a signal named FRB 121102 took the air out of that theory when it was found to buck the trend of being a one-hit wonder. 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".

Breakthrough Listen is a scientific program in search for evidence of technological life in the Universe.

"While it would be unwise to exclude the possibility that there are is other intelligent, technologically-capable, life in our universe, it is also unwise to immediately ascribe any new and poorly-understood astronomical phenomena to the work of alien life", added Loeb.

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