Radio signals from outer space detected

This 19 January 2015 video is called Mysteries of Space: Epic ‘Cosmic Radio Burst’ Finally Seen In Real Time.

From National Geographic:

Astronomers Catch Mysterious Radio Blast From the Distant Universe

by Nadia Drake

Coming from far beyond the galaxy, an extremely energetic blast of radio waves has been snared by astronomers lying in wait. Lasting for just a few thousandths of a second, the burst is the first of an enigmatic class of objects to be observed in real-time, astronomers report today in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Called fast radio bursts, these extreme pulses of energy last for just a fraction of a second. They’ve confounded astronomers – who have no idea what they are – since West Virginia University’s Duncan Lorimer spotted the first burst in 2007. At the time, it appeared as though the beam of radio waves had traveled roughly 3 billion light-years before colliding with Earth. That’s a reasonably far distance, even by astronomical standards. But not everyone believed the team’s interpretation. Skeptics suggested the burst’s signal could be coming from Earth’s atmosphere, or from inside the galaxy, or even that it was an artifact of the telescope itself, located at the Parkes Observatory in Australia.

Indeed, for five years, that Parkes telescope was the sole spotter of fast radio bursts, and eventually observed another half-dozen or so.

That changed in November 2012, when the Arecibo Observatory spotted a fast radio burst. Like the Parkes signals, it looked as though it came from billions of light-years away. While the observation strongly suggested the bursts were not a telescope artifact, scientists still had yet to see one in real time: All of the observations so far had been pulled from data that were at least a few weeks old.

Then, on May 14, 2014, Swinburne University’s Emily Petroff spotted a fast radio burst in the act of blasting. She and her colleagues determined the signal came from as far as 5.5 billion light-years away and was mildly polarized, suggesting a magnetic field somewhere near its origin has aligned the waves in particular directions.

Petroff had designed a program specifically to spy on these bursts, and once the radio pulse had been detected, she rallied a legion of telescopes to stare at the thing. Tasked with peering deep into the cosmos, the group of 12 telescopes quickly returned data suggesting there was no easily identifiable astrophysical source. The lack of a discernible afterglow eliminated some of the more mundane possibilities, such as distant supernovas or long gamma-ray bursts.

So what are these fast radio bursts? The short answer is, scientists still don’t know. “There are more theories than there are bursts,” Lorimer said earlier this year. Some of those theories implicate rather exotic-sounding, very dense objects: Colliding black holes or neutron stars, evaporating primordial black holes, imploding neutron stars, or enormous flares erupting from magnetic neutron stars, called magnetars.

It’s a mystery that’s still waiting to be solved, but at least scientists now know their suspects live very, very far away and aren’t exceptionally secretive. Whatever the sources are, they regularly hurl beacons of radio light across a vast expanse of cosmic sea.

15 thoughts on “Radio signals from outer space detected

        • I understand that sound waves do travel in vacuum, but that ears can’t hear them.

          “A few friends and I are currently in debate about space. They say that there is no sound in space and that it is because there is no air in space. For instance if someone were talking to you, you couldn’t hear what they were saying. I found it hard to believe either of those claims. I argued that there has to be air out there and that even if there was no air, there would still be sound because things like radio waves and light waves travel through space. Could you please clear us up on this argument.

          Answer by Dave: I’m afraid that your friends are right. In empty space, there is no air, and what we call “sound” is actually vibrations in the air. Now, like you’ve said, there are indeed light waves and radio waves in space, but these waves are not sound, but light. Light does not need air to travel, but then you don’t hear it; you see it, or it is interpreted by your radio set and then translated into sound.

          Astronauts in space do talk to each other. In the spacecraft, there is plenty of air, so they just talk normally. When they are spacewalking, they talk by means of radios in their helmets. The radio waves, again, have no problem in space, but they’re not sound. They’re radio, which has to be converted into sound by the astronauts’ headsets.”


          Liked by 1 person

          • Yes, I agree with this argument. have you ever thought if radio signal can be formed by something it self in the universe? for instance a movement of an asteroid in the space or bursts in a galaxy can result in both forms, the sounds and the radio waves.

            It’s hard to believe if there is other civilization out there either more advance or primitive than us. No one ever told about it.


            • Being not a professional astronomer, only a very amateur one, I should be careful replying to this.

              The blog post suggests various poossibilities for these radio signals: “Colliding black holes or neutron stars, evaporating primordial black holes, imploding neutron stars, or enormous flares erupting from magnetic neutron stars, called magnetars.”

              As for extraterrestial life: it is possible in theory. Many astronomers think that, if it exists, it may rather be more like lichens than like humans; or very unlike any life on earth.

              Even if it would be somewhat like humans: would they communicate by radio (only since about 100 years ago by earthlings)?

              Science fiction and other fictional books, films, TV series like Star Trek , etc. have much extraterrestrial life. However, they are fiction.

              Liked by 1 person

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