Signal From Space-FRB



Debarun Acharya

On 9 January 2019, a Canadian-led team of astronomers working with a radio telescope dubbed CHIME, published a study announcing the second recorded instance of a repeating “Fast Radio Burst,” or FRB. Though (non-repeating) FRBs have been known to science since 2007, the mechanisms that produce them largely remain a mystery. These millisecond-long bursts of electromagnetic radiation, necessarily produced by extremely high energy events, arrive at Earth from sources billions of light years away, where they are detected by large radio telescope arrays. Until recently, FRBs had exclusively been singular, transient events, which made them hard to study or understand with any depth or precision.
In 2016, however, the first ever repeating FRB was confirmed by a group of researchers working with the Very Large Array telescope in New Mexico. In that case, “FRB 121102” was detected first in 2012 and again from the area of sky in 2015. Because of its repeating nature, researchers were able to pinpoint the dwarf galaxy it came from, some 2.5 billion light years away. The more repeating FRBs scientists identify, the more likely it is that they will be able to understand their origins.

In 2017 Loeb and his Harvard colleague Manasvi Lingam proposed that FRBs could be leakage from planet-sized alien transmitters. Rather than being designed for communication, they would more likely be used to propel giant spaceships powered by light sails which bounce light, or in this case radio beams, off a huge reflective sheet to provide thrust, the scientists said.

“Fast radio bursts are exceedingly bright given their short duration and origin at great distances, and we haven’t identified a possible natural source with any confidence,” said Loeb in a statement after the publication of a previous paper in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. “An artificial origin is worth contemplating and checking.

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