It’s the dream of science fiction: making contact with aliens on another planet, or even better, in distant galaxies. Unfortunately, as it stands, we have not established this sort of communication yet, or have we?
Back in 2007, a telescope at Parkes Observatory in Australia, began picking up strange bursts of radio signals that could not be explained: astronomers believed they originated at least 4 billion light-years away from Earth. The observatory picked up these bursts in subsequent years, but was the only telescope to do so, which led astronomers to think that the telescope was causing them or that they were coming from Earth. A new report states the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico has detected a similar burst of radio signals. The new discovery suggests the original signals were authentic, but also indicates that they’re from far, far outside our galaxy.
The Arecibo Observatory has the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope. Its mission is to find radio signals from space, for further study by astronomers. Last November, the telescope noted a sudden and fast increase in the signals, a spike, lasting about three milliseconds. This burst matched those previously reported from the Parkes Observatory.
By studying this new short burst, scientists take into account something called “dispersion,” which means that radio signals, which normally travel at the speed of light, are running into interference, thanks to space junk with high levels of electrons. This slows the signals down. According to the data, astronomers believe that these new bursts have a high dispersion rate and originate from very far away: billions and billions of light-years from Earth.
Before we get too excited about these signals coming from aliens trying to communicate with us, though, the astronomers believe that the signals are probably coming from something else, something dense, like a neutron star or black hole. Telescopes all over the world will keep searching for more bursts and astronomers hope to find some occurring in real-time, allowing us the chance to pinpoint their location and source.