Those mysterious radio bursts are definitely coming from space

4 Apr 2017

Illustration of fast radio burst. Image: merrymuuu/Shutterstock

Research into the 20 or so mysterious radio bursts detected by astronomers has concluded that they are definitely coming from space.

When it comes to space, there are plenty of things out there that, at first glance, seem to defy our very understanding in the universe.

One of the most notable examples was a giant planet-like object that seemed to be somewhere it shouldn’t. In recent years, astronomers and theorists alike have questioned the existence of a giant Dyson sphere in deep space.

So when mysterious radio bursts are captured – 1bn times more luminous than anything else seen in the universe – then stargazers’ interest is really piqued.

For the past decade, astronomers have observed at least 20 of these powerful bursts in the cosmos, but there were serious concerns that they were being generated on Earth and misidentified as space-born signals.

Now, according to Science Alert, researchers in Australia believe that they have ruled out any potential for interference from our planet.

These fast radio bursts (FRBs), as they are officially called, are widely believed to be originating from some natural phenomenon we just don’t know about yet, with some suggesting that it could be alien in origin.

To help rule out any Earth interference, however, the team from Swinburne University of Technology in Australia used a telescope called Molonglo, which has a huge catchment area for cosmic signals.

Now to find what they are

Unlike other single dish telescopes that are a little too good at picking up signals from Earth, Molonglo has the ability to filter out any traffic from within our atmosphere.

After sifting through thousands of terabytes of data of collected information from the telescope, the team was able to find three FRBs located within a dwarf galaxy 3bn light years away.

Now that the cosmic origin of these FRBs has been determined, astronomers can now get to work trying to solve what the mysterious signals are, and even if they could be extra-terrestrial.

“Figuring out where the bursts come from is the key to understanding what makes them. Only one burst has been linked to a specific galaxy,” said PhD candidate Manisha Caleb.

“We expect Molonglo will do this for many more bursts.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic