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article imageRadio signals from outer space baffle scientists

By Stephen Morgan     Apr 1, 2015 in Science
Bizarre radio waves pulsating from outer space have left astronomers stumped. Standard physics is neither capable of explaining the signals' patterns, nor giving the precise origin of their synchronized bursts.
Since 2001, there have been 10 such signals, which are called Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs). But scientists have never been able to explain them.
They were first discovered by researchers going through data accumulated after the event, but last year the Parkes Telescope in New South Wales, Australia, caught one happening in real time.
This, together with recent observations from the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico, finally put pay to skeptics in the scientific community, who contested that the radio signals were the result of technical malfunctions.
Now, in a new study, scientists have discovered more important information about the radio bursts, which is helping to narrow down the search for their nature and origins. But, paradoxically, the data also seems in some ways to have added to the mystery surrounding them.
According to New Scientist, the scientists found that the bursts come in intervals which are always multiples of one number — 187.5 — and they have calculated that there is only a 5 in 10,000 probability that this is coincidence.
Co-leader of the study, John Learned from the University of Hawaii, said,
"If the pattern is real, it is very, very hard to explain."
The researchers don't exclude that the radio signals are coming from some secret spy satellite, disguising its transmissions as signals from deep space. But this is is far from certain. They believe that the emissions are either some unknown natural process or even a technologically-based signal from deep space by an alien civilization.
There are different celestial bodies in the universe which do emit radio waves. These are flaring stars, white dwarfs, colliding neutron stars and blitzars, says the Mail Online.
However, what we know about them, doesn't fit with the complex signals broadcast by these FRBs. Such precise dispersions of regular emissions by natural phenomenon has never been observed.
Mysterious millisecond radio bursts
Mysterious millisecond radio bursts
Lorimor et all
In the study, the scientists make it clear that the multiples of 187.5, between the arrival of the first and last waves, is inexplicable.
"No known natural phenomenon can explain this," says their paper.
The New Scientist writes,
"If the pattern is real, either some strange celestial physics is going on, or the bursts are artificial, produced by human – or alien – technology."
Scientists have, for a long time, looked to radio waves, which transmit mathematical formulas, as one possibility for discovering alien life. Mathematics, the argument goes, is the only likely language through which we could communicate.
The statistical precision off these FRBs is being taken seriously as possible evidence of extraterrestrial communications. The paper written by the two scientist makes it clear that,
"An artificial source (human or non-human) must be considered."
The other leader of the study, Michael Hippke of the Institute for Data Analysis in Neukirchen-Vluyn, Germany, added that,
"This will either be new physics, like a new kind of pulsar, or, in the end, if we can exclude everything else, an ET."
NASA and various other official projects like SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute, have been sending radio broadcasts into outer space for decades, in the hope that they will be picked up by aliens. If we are doing it, why shouldn't other intelligent beings in the universe be doing something similar?
"These have been intriguing as an engineered signal, or evidence of extraterrestrial technology, since the first was discovered," says Jill Tarter, former director of the SETI Institute in California. "I'm intrigued. Stay tuned."
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