The Unexplained: Signals from the Stars

A collection of 27 radio antennas are located at the NRAO site in Socorro, New Mexico. Photo Credit: Alex Savello/NRAO

Many of the news headlines are accompanied by the teaser, Something out there really wants our attention.

I see more and more news headlines about rapid radio bursts from far, far away in the great beyond, and I have hesitated to write about them—there are so many.  How do you sort it all out?

Recently I have seen one that I cannot ignore.  A headline that is almost identical is coming out from several news outlets such as Science Alert, Sci News, Sky and Telescope, Cornell, The Journal, Science, and even National Geo.

Many of the news headlines are accompanied by the teaser, Something out there really wants our attention.

Sara Marie Hogg

I have tried to keep up with all the activities of SETI.  Sadly the huge radio telescope at Arecibo was damaged and cannot be repaired.  It is permanently closed—a big loss.  There are some small components there that still operate, but the big dish is ruined for good.

Fast radio bursts are a big mystery in the cosmos.  Are they natural occurrences?  Some think so.  The recent bursts are even visible on the radio wave spectrum.  They appear at the very end of the spectrum where most radio waves disappear and fade from view.

There is one advancement that made these fast bursts again newsworthy—the development of the 500 Meter Aperture Spherical FAST Radio Telescope.  It is in Guizhou, China, and has been given the nickname, The Eye of Heaven.

It is a recent tool of the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Scientists (NAO/CAS).

It is a real science news flash that in one recent scan the equipment detected 1652 independent fast radio bursts from a single source in 47 days.

Researchers from several prestigious astronomy research organizations and universities took part and took notice.

The series of fast radio bursts came from a distant dwarf galaxy three billion light years away in the constellation of Auriga.

The scientists’ explanations for these powerful bursts are as follows: 1) hyper-magnetized neutron stars and black holes,  2) cosmic strings left over from the Big Bang,  3) alien transmission.

I hope number three got your attention.  It got mine.

To complicate matters, we need to remember that a signal broadcast from one side of the galaxy would take 100,000 years to reach the other side.  So, depending on how far away the radio burst came from, it could have been emitted thousands of years ago, and signals being sent now by us or anyone else could take thousands of years to get there depending on the destination.

Thus, the old theory by prominent scientists that really advanced civilizations would not be using radio signals to communicate does not seem so concrete as it once was—if you consider that signals were broadcast into the cosmos thousands of years ago.

Stay tuned, literally.  We may soon find a signal we can decipher if we pay close attention.


Please click HERE to find Quite Curious, a collection of true stories about the unexplained from Sara Marie Hogg.


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