Astronomers in Australia reported that that a Ph.D. student picked up an alien radio signal from outer space in real-time. The detection of the radio signal was reported in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society recently, though the radio waves were actually detected on May 15, 2014. Astronomers aren’t certain where the radio signal came from.
“Swinburne University PhD student Emily Petroff watched the fast radio burst, which lasted about a millisecond but gave off as much energy as the Sun does in a day, using the Parkes radio telescope in New South Wales,” the Sydney Morning Herald recently announced.
The biggest news isn’t the existence of the radio burst, though, it was that the scientist discovered the radio burst within ten seconds of when it occurred, according to doctoral student Emily Petroff, from Swinburne University of Technology in Australia.
“The importance of the discovery was recognized very quickly and we were all working very excitedly to contact other astronomers and telescopes around the world to look at the location of the burst.”
Petroff’s work focuses on using pulsars to “study the interstellar medium” of our galaxy, but she also studies Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) detected in radio surveys. Fox News offered up the possibility that perhaps the radio signals were a form of alien communications. Still, that article warned “UFO hunters” not to get too excited, because while astronomers recognize it’s a possibility, that is not what they actually suspect. Petroff explained the radio burst phenomenon.
“We’re confident that they’re coming from natural sources, that is to say it’s probably not aliens, but we haven’t solved the case completely. The two most promising theories at the moment are that these bursts could be produced either by a star producing a highly energetic flare, or from a neutron star collapsing to make a black hole. Both of these things would be from sources in far-away galaxies just reaching us from billions of light years away.”
Petroff told Fox News that while the astronomers were able to pick up on the radio waves in real time, by the time they pointed the telescopes in the right place, eight hours later, they found nothing. PBS reported that whatever caused the “cosmic radio burst must be cataclysmic, huge, and at least 5.5 billion light years from Earth.”
— Baerbel Koribalski (@HIgalaxies) January 20, 2015
“All we can do is learn from our experience with this discovery and create a more efficient system for next time,” Petroff explained.
“We still spend a large amount of time looking for fast radio bursts with the Parkes telescope and the next time we are in the right place at just the right time, we’ll be able to act faster than ever before and hopefully solve the mystery once and for all!”
— Emily Petroff (@ebpetroff) January 23, 2015
According to the published report from Australian astronomers, they were able to rule out a supernova and long duration gamma-ray bursts as the source of the radio signal, but much is left unanswered.
[Photo via Petroff’s Twitter page]