The “fast radio bursts” included one “double signal” never heard before and have left astronomers buzzing with excitement over the possibility of it being a message with alien origins.
Only 11 of the unidentified transient radio pulses have been recorded before around the world.And it is the curious new double blast – which was accompanied by four “singles” – which has baffled astronomers analysing data from the Parkes radio telescope in New South Wales, Australia.Emily Petroff from Swinburne University, in Melbourne, one of the team who discovered the signals, believes the origin could be more remarkable than anything recorded before.She tweeted: “We have no idea what’s going on, but we know it’s definitely something cool.”The discovery is being compared in significance to the recording of the “Wow signal” – a strong narrowband radio wave found by Jerry Ehman in 1977.That radio burst, picked up by the Big Ear radio telescope of The Ohio State University in the United States, bore all the expected hallmarks of non-terrestrial origin but has not been detected since.Fast radio bursts (FRBs) were first discovered from records in 2007, and we finally saw one in real-time last year.However, there has never, until now, been a double blast.
They are quick-fire bursts of radio energy, originating from great distances away, and, as a result, must have contained a huge amount of energy.
We have no idea what’s going on, but we know it’s definitely something cool
Emily Petroff from Swinburne University, in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
The announcement in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society of the five new signals has left the research community on tenet hooks.The team said the double burst FRB (called 121002) had a “clear two-component profile”.
They say each component is similar to the known population of single component FRBs and are separated by 2.4 milliseconds.
They added: “Many of the proposed models to explain FRBs use a single high energy event involving compact objects (such as neutron star mergers) and therefore cannot easily explain a two-component FRB.”
The radio waves appear to originate from a distant galaxy
The news comes just days after a research paper claimed FRBs were the result of mergers between black holes and neutron stars.