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

Conflicts Engulf Christians in Mideast

Research finds an increase in faith-based hostilities, and Christians are facing persecution in a growing number of countries in the region More

Chinese Americans: Don’t Call Us 'Model Minority'

Label points to collective achievement, but some say it triggers resentment, unrealistic expectations More

Iran Bolsters Phone, Internet Surveillance

Does increased monitoring suggest the government is nervous? 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.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Polish Ghetto

When the Nazi army moved into the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid