Distinct lack of aliens
Brightest burst of radio waves detected
The search for mysterious “fast radio bursts” – very brief but intense pulses of radio waves from outer space – is heating up. Nobody knows what causes these powerful bursts, but some have even speculated that the signals could be transmitted by distant alien civilisations. In fact, astronomers are so perplexed by the phenomenon that it is driving a renaissance in radio astronomy.
Now an international team of astronomers has detected the brightest ever fast radio burst. Dubbed FRB 150807 after its discovery date, the burst of intense radio waves lasted less than half a millisecond – that is 0.1% of the time it takes a human to blink. And the study, published in Science, has come closer than any before it to pinning down where the blip came from. The research comes just days after another study reported having seen a fast radio burst together with an outburst of gamma rays, extremely energetic electromagnetic radiation.
Despite their intensity, the nature and origin of fast radio bursts is still hotly debated. Some astronomers have suggested these brief, intense flashes are flares produced in the atmospheres of certain stars in our own Milky Way galaxy – a process similar to solar flares. Others argue they are caused by cosmic collisions such as a neutron star (a collapsed core of a large star) colliding with a black hole in a distant galaxy, or speculated that they could be alien signals…