Mysterious series of fast radio bursts detected from distant galaxy

The Breakthrough Listen initiative was launched in July 2015 by billionaire businessman Yuri Milner and a group of scientists, including well-known astrophysicist Stephen Hawking.
By Chad Young | Sep 01, 2017
Astronomers have detected a mysterious series of repeating radio signals emanating from a dwarf galaxy some 3 billion light-years away.

Scientists with the Breakthrough Listen project, which is dedicated to finding signs of intelligent alien life, were using the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, when they recorded 15 repeating fast radio bursts (FRBs) on August 26.

Fast radio bursts, which last only a few milliseconds, were discovered in 2007. Since then, nearly two dozen FRBs have been recorded, mostly as single events.

In 2016, however, scientists announced they had found a repeating radio signal coming from a dwarf galaxy known as FRB 121102 that is located 3 billion light-years from Earth.

The most recent signals coming from the same galaxy are both unusual and intriguing.

"Bursts from this source have never been seen at this high a frequency," said Andrew Siemion, a member of Breakthrough Listen and director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, in a report by Space.com.

While some researchers think FRBs could be signals from intelligent alien life, others have suggested they are coming from a young, highly magnetized neutron star, although nothing like it has been observed in that region of space before.

"Whether or not fast radio bursts turn out to be signatures of extraterrestrial technology, Breakthrough Listen is helping to push the frontiers of a new and rapidly growing area of our understanding of the universe around us," Siemion said.

The Breakthrough Listen initiative was launched in July 2015 by billionaire businessman Yuri Milner and a group of scientists, including well-known astrophysicist Stephen Hawking.

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