Published: 4:05 PM 8/14/2015
Could aliens be trying to contact Earth?
Could aliens be trying to contact Earth? Researchers have found bursts of radio waves flashing across the sky that seem to follow a mathematical pattern; if the pattern is real, then either something strange is happening or the bursts are artificial and produced by human-or alien-technology.
Telescopes have been picking up fast radio bursts (FRBs) since 2001. Although these radio bursts last just a few milliseconds, they erupt with about as much energy as the sun releases in a month. Ten of these bursts have been detected since 2001, and the most recent one was captured live in 2014 at the Parkes Observatory in New South Wales, Australia.
"These events are one of the biggest mysteries in the universe," said John Mulcaey, Carnegie Observatories' acting director, in an interview with the Telegraph. "Until now, astronomers were not able to catch one of these events in the act."
Needless to say, these bursts are intriguing. That's why researchers embarked on a new study to work out how far the bursts have travelled to arrive at Earth using "dispersion measures." This looks at how the radiowaves that are being sent become scattered as they travel through space.
Surprisingly, all of the 10 bursts that have been detected so far have dispersion measures that line up as multiples of a single number: 187.5. The chances of them doing this are 5 in 10,000, according to the researchers. This makes the lineup extremely hard to explain.
So are these radio waves being sent by alien beings? That's a good question. There are two theories for why the coincidence is happening. The first is that each of the bursts were sent from regularly spaced intervals: five sources at equally spaced distances from Earth. The more likely theory is that they came from somewhere much closer, but are somehow being sent with a delay that matches up to the strange pattern.
The scientists aren't sure what could be causing these radiowaves to have such a pattern, but they plan to investigate further to find out.
"These have been intriguing as an engineered signal, or evidence of extraterrestrial technology, since the first was discovered," said Jill Tarter, former director of the SETI Institute in California, in an interview with NewScientist. "I'm intrigued. Stay tuned."