News / Science & Technology

Astronomers Detect Mystery Radio Bursts

Radio telescopes like these near Carnarvon, South Africa are used to study radio signals from throughout the universe.
Radio telescopes like these near Carnarvon, South Africa are used to study radio signals from throughout the universe.
Rick Pantaleo
An international team of astronomers is studying four mysterious and very powerful radio bursts they think may have originated half way across the universe.  The astronomers have come up with a few theories about the signals, none of them having anything to do with alien civilizations.
 
A mysterious radio pulse coming from outside our galaxy was first detected back in 2007. At the time, scientists didn’t know what it was or if it was simply a type of earth-made interference.
 
So a group of astronomers led by Dan Thornton from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the University of Manchester in Britain decided to scan the skies with a radio telescope to search for pulsars -- rotating neutron stars or remnants of stars that had exploded. Thornton and his team wanted to know if the mystery radio pulse was still being transmitted, to figure out where it came from and what might be causing it.
 
As he and his colleagues slowly scanned the heavens, Thornton said they detected more of these radio bursts.  They also learned that the bursts were real and not just radio interference, and that they had travelled a long distance to get here.
 
“What we discovered is very, very narrow radio emissions, so very short lengths; they only last for a few milliseconds,” Thornton said.  “The main thing that is interesting about them is that they appear to be coming from across the universe -- so extremely far away.  We get lots of these radio emissions a bit like this from our own galaxy, from pulsars, but these appear to be coming from way, way outside of our galaxy, a million times further away.”
 
They came from outside our galaxy

Thornton said that while he and his colleagues detected only four of the mystery radio pulses over a one year period, that’s because they were only scanning relatively small patches of the sky at a time.  It will take a few more years to complete the entire sky survey and he says the probability is that thousands more of these signals will be discovered.
 
“We calculated a rate of how many of these we might expect in the sky per day and we found that there’s 10,000 going off every day somewhere in the sky, randomly distributed,” Thornton said, explaining how his team reached the estimate.
 
While the astronomers aren’t completely clear as to the origins of the radio signals, at the moment they’re thinking that they could be the result of some major cosmological event that took place billions of years ago.

A cataclysmic event

“We think it’s probably an extreme cataclysmic event, so something that destroys whatever it was that created it because we haven’t seen them to repeat,” he said.  “We looked back at the same patch of sky and we haven’t seen any repeat bursts at the same position.  This leads us to believe that they only happened once, so it’s a possible explosive event like a supernova, like a star coming to the end of its life and exploding, possibly, or perhaps associated with a giant burst from a magnetar.”
 
Thornton says that astronomers need to continue their investigations to better pinpoint the source and cause of the radio bursts.

One thing that he is sure of is that these short but incredibly powerful bursts aren’t coming from extraterrestrial life forms out in the cosmos.
 
“This is nothing to do with alien civilizations,” Thornton said.  “If you calculate the luminosity of these bursts, they’re absolutely enormous. It’s just not possible for that amount of energy to be harnessed in just five milliseconds.  The energy output, at (its) source of these bursts is how much energy the sun gives out in total for 300,000 years, but this happens in just five milliseconds and I can’t imagine how anyone could control that.”
 
Thornton and his team outlined their finding in a paper published by the journal Science.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid