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

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    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.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora