A group of researchers with the $100 million Breakthrough Listen initiative have detected 15 strange radio bursts. What makes the discovery all the more amazing is that the radio bursts originated from the only object in space ever to have been confirmed to repeat such radio bursts.
The Breakthrough Listen initiative is an unprecedented push to locate and confirm extraterrestrial communication. The initiative employs radio telescopes that are 50 times more powerful than anything used for these purposes before. The aim of the initiative is to survey 1,000,000 of the closest stars to earth and 100 of our closest galaxies. The Breakthrough Listen initiative has committed $100 million over 10 years towards the pursuit.
The 15 fast radio waves observed by Breakthrough Listen emanated from a small slice of space designated FRB 121102 (catchy I know). FRB 121102 is approximately 3 billion light years away from earth in a dwarf galaxy and is important as it is the only location ever to have been observed repeating fast radio bursts. The bursts were found after examining 400 terabytes of data collected by the initiative’s Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. The discovery was made by postdoctoral researcher, Dr. Vishal Gajjar.
The fast radio bursts are generally considered to be some of the universe’s strangest phenomena with scientists unable to ascertain how they are created. Although many would like to believe that they are created by extraterrestrial life, it is just as likely they are created by neutron star outbursts.
If they were sent by some alien civilisation, they would have been sent a long time ago when the earth was inhabited by nothing more than single-celled organisms. One could argue then, that aware of the potential of a budding race of beings, they sent a message they knew would reach us just in time for us to have developed the necessary technology to observe it. However, this is a little fantastical to take very seriously.