By Elton Gomes
Australian researchers on Thursday said that by using the CSIRO radio telescope they were able to detect a record number of radio waves from space, including the closest and fastest one that may help understand the matter between galaxies. The team’s findings were published in the journal Nature.
“We’ve found 20 fast radio bursts in a year, almost doubling the number detected worldwide since they were discovered in 2007,” lead author Dr Ryan Shannon, from Swinburne University of Technology and the OzGrav ARC Centre of Excellence, said, EurekaAlert reported.
What are fast radio bursts and what do they indicate
Fast radio bursts are one of the most mysterious phenomena in the universe. They are blasts of huge amounts of energy, which is equivalent to the amount released by the Sun in 80 years. They are known to last for just a moment, and come from a mysterious source.
Some scientists have suggested they these bursts are being emitted by an extraterrestrial intelligence. On the other hand, others have suggested that these bursts could be a result of less intelligent but equally spectacular causes, such as black holes or dense stars smashing into each other.
How will the recent discovery help scientists
The study’s lead author Dr Ryan Shannon said, “Using the new technology of the Australia Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP), we’ve also proved that fast radio bursts are coming from the other side of the Universe rather than from our own galactic neighbourhood.” the Independent reported.
The new stars have helped scientists in tracking the bursts as they make their way through the universe. The bursts have travelled for billions of years, and scientists can use that fact to figure out that they are coming from roughly halfway across the universe.
“Each time this happens, the different wavelengths that make up a burst are slowed by different amounts,” Dr Shannon said. “Eventually, the burst reaches Earth with its spread of wavelengths arriving at the telescope at slightly different times, like swimmers at a finish line.
“Timing the arrival of the different wavelengths tells us how much material the burst has travelled through on its journey.
“And because we’ve shown that fast radio bursts come from far away, we can use them to detect all the missing matter located in the space between galaxies–which is a really exciting discovery,” as reported by the Independent.
Fast radio bursts could be evidence of extraterrestrial life
In March 2017, two astrophysicists, Avi Loeb at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and Manasvi Lingam at Harvard University, decided to investigate the possibility as to whether FRBs (fast radio bursts) have an alien origin.
Loeb and Lingam began by calculating how much energy would be required to send a signal that strong across such an enormous distance. Although speculative, the two astrophysicists concluded that if FRBs are indeed the result of an alien propulsion system, it would work in the following way: Earth is rotating and orbiting, which means that the alien star and galaxy are moving relative to us.
This is why we are only able to see a brief flash. The beam sweeps across the sky, and hits us only for a moment. The repeated appearances of FRBs could be a clue to its alien, technological origin.
In terms of the recent discovery, Dr Shannon said we now know that FRBs originate from about halfway across the universe, but we are unaware as to what causes them or which galaxies they come from. The team’s next challenge will be to pinpoint the locations of bursts in the sky.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius