In 2007, astronomers discovered a brief and strong burst of radio emission that came from somewhere in deep space. Being the first discovery of its time, the radio waves were dubbed fast radio bursts (FRBs), which only lasts for no more than 5 milliseconds. The bursts vanish just as fast as they appear. FRBs are one of the biggest mysteries known to physics. Some scientists suggest that blitzars are the explanation FRBs. Blitzars are defined as a hypothetical type of celestial object in which a spinning pulsar rapidly collapses into a black hole.
It’s been a decade since the first discovery of an FRB. On February 15, 2015, the 22nd was discovered by a team of researchers from the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy. Scientists used the Parkes Telescope in Australia to spot the latest burst dubbed FRB 150215. This one is said to be the strangest and perhaps the most mysterious of them all.
What Makes FRB 150215 Different Than Other FRB Discoveries
The FRB discovered in 2007 was found through six years of archived data. However, for the first time ever, FRB 150215 was actually observed in real time. Since it was discovered in real time, scientists were optimistic with hope in finding out where the cosmic bursts came from.
A Long Mission To Learn More About FRB 150215
Despite over two years of extreme effort and resources (including the use of 11 telescopes) to pinpoint the source of the burst, scientists are completely baffled. While FRB 150215 can be viewed using a variety of telescopes, it has left no detectable signal or even a trace of light.
Why Scientists Are So Puzzled
FRB 150215 is puzzling scientists for several reasons. Based on the direction in the sky it came from, scientists shouldn’t have been able to see it. Plus, in order to spot it, scientists had to look through the Milky Way galaxy. However, the galaxy’s magnetic field should have changed the way the radio burst’s light traveled—but for some reason, it didn’t.
Emily Petroff, who is leading the study, thinks FRB 150215 likely traveled through some kind of hole in the Milky Way.
What Is Known About Fast Radio Bursts
- Based on current theories, FRBs are rare, random and brief flashes of radio energy.
- They are likely coming from beyond the Milky Way galaxy.
- There is one burst that repeats. FRB 121102 was first spotted in 2012. Observations revealed that a total of 11 radio bursts had originated from the same region of space.
Unfortunately, there is nothing else known about these mysterious radio waves.
Theories include that FRBs may come from neutron stars in the process of becoming black holes, the collision of two neutron stars or an evaporating black hole. Of course, another idea is that the FRBs come from an advanced alien civilization.
Are The FRB 150215 Signals Coming From Advanced Alien Civilizations?
While some believe the mystery of FRBs may be signs that advanced aliens are trying to contact us, Petroff doesn’t believe it has anything to do with aliens. Petroff tweeted: “Just to be clear, we don’t know what is causing the fast radio bursts we see, but we don’t think it’s anything to do with aliens,” said Petroff.
Stephen Hawking Says Contacting Aliens Could Be A Dangerous Move
According to theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking, we should be wary of answering back to aliens sending us a signal. He mentions that our first contact from advanced aliens could be equivalent to when Native Americans first encountered Christopher Columbus.
Hawking also suggests the possibility that the advanced aliens that are reading our messages could be billions of years ahead of humans. Therefore, they would likely be much more powerful and may not see humans as any more valuable than we see bacteria.
Regardless of where radio flashes come from, they must have a massive amount of energy. The reason is because they are visible despite likely coming from outside of the Milky Way.
Interestingly, astronomers believe there could be around 2,000 FRBs in the Universe every day. In the near future, there will be several new telescopes capable of confirming that. The new technology should allow scientists to study the trends, similarities, or differences between the signals. Then, perhaps we may get some answers to this fascinating mystery.
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