Scientists were astonished to discover that 15 new extremely intense, fast radio bursts have been coming from galaxy FRB 121102, which is the same galaxy that we have been hearing so much about in the news over the past year due to these high-energy radio bursts.
The Parkes Telescope in Australia was the first to pick up fast radio bursts, and since that time, they have been spotted around the world by other radio telescopes. The galaxy known as FRB 121102, located 3 billion light-years away from Earth, was first discovered on November 2, 2012, and as of 2015, it was the only galaxy where repeat high-energy radio bursts were seen, making it an extremely special place. In fact, 150 fast radio bursts have been discovered so far coming from this dwarf galaxy.
What makes the latest detection from FRB 121102 so intriguing to scientists is that 15 of these fast radio bursts were just picked up over the course of a mere five hours. Andrew Siemion, who heads up the organization Breakthrough Listen at the University of California, Berkeley, has said that at no time since FRB121102 was discovered has there ever been so many high-energy radio bursts observed there, according to ScienceAlert.
“Bursts from this source have never been seen at this high a frequency.”
On August 28, Andrew Siemion and his team at Breakthrough Listen let astronomers around the world know of the organization’s most recent findings of the 15 new fast radio bursts from FRB 121102 through Astronomer’s Telegram. Vishal Gajjar, the researcher responsible for noticing this most recent series of high-energy radio bursts, has explained that the new tools his group uses will allow them to analyze these fast radio bursts in much greater detail than has ever been achieved before, as Berkeley News report.
“As well as confirming that the source is in a newly active state, the high resolution of the data obtained by the Listen instrument will allow measurement of the properties of these mysterious bursts at a higher precision than ever possible before.”
— Emily Calandrelli (@TheSpaceGal) August 30, 2017
Breakthrough Listen’s instruments were able to pick up 400 terabytes worth of data across all of the 4 to 8 GHz frequency band during the five hours that they observed the high-energy radio bursts. Gajjar observed that the sensitivity of his team’s instruments may help astronomers to finally understand what is behind all of the fast radio bursts coming from FRB 121102.
“The extraordinary capabilities of the backend receiver, which is able to record several gigahertz of bandwidth at a time, split into billions of individual channels, enable a new view of the frequency spectrum of FRBs, and should shed additional light on the processes giving rise to FRB emission.”
While many are hoping that these signals are proof of intelligent life in the universe, Andrew Siemion says that his organization is there to get to the bottom of what is causing all of these mysterious fast radio bursts to happen with such frequency, whether the reason happens to be because of extraterrestrial life or something perhaps more mundane.
“Whether or not fast radio bursts turn out to be signatures of extraterrestrial technology, Breakthrough Listen is helping to push the frontiers of a new and rapidly growing area of our understanding of the universe around us.”
Critically, it is important to remember that even though we are now detecting these fast radio bursts coming from dwarf galaxy FRB 121102, when they originally left the Auriga constellation in the northern hemisphere, our solar system would have been fairly new at just under 2 billion years of age. This means that when the high-energy radio bursts first ventured forth, life on Earth would have been comprised of only single-cell organisms. It would take billions of years before the evolution of more complex, multi-cellular life began to evolve on this planet.
Whatever astronomers end up discovering is the cause of these fast radio bursts coming from FRB 121102, researchers continue to learn more about this phenomenon as they push the boundaries of science today ever further.
[Featured Image by Handout/Getty Images]