A new study has detailed how scientists are tracking seemingly organized radio bursts from outer space. Countless radio signals are coming to Earth from space at all times, but most of them are just noise with no clear organization. However, researchers are starting to find that some of these signals are actually organized and appear to form patterns.
Signals like this are not uncommon, in fact, researchers have been observing them for over a decade now. Although in the past few years, scientists have been getting even better at tracking them.
These signals are known as FRBs or Fast Radio Bursts.
The first FRB was discovered by Duncan Lorimer and his student David Narkevic in 2007 when they were looking through archival pulsar survey data, and it is therefore commonly referred to as the Lorimer Burst. Many FRBs have since been recorded, including several that have been detected to repeat in seemingly strange ways.
Despite this strange anomaly, many researchers are careful to clarify that this is not necessarily proof that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe, because it could be created by some type of natural phenomenon, such as a star or a black hole.
Still, it is an extremely new frontier in astronomy, and researchers are finding more organized patterns in these radio waves.
Earlier this year, researchers observed that the same repeating frequencies were coming to Earth every 16 days, and it was given the title of FRB 180916.
The pattern was first observed by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment Fast Radio Burst Project (CHIME/FRB). The organization tracked the FRBs and realized that the signal seemed to be repeating in a perfect pattern. The signals were detected using the CHIME radio telescope in British Columbia.
Researchers have been able to pinpoint approximately where the signals are coming from, but they still rent sure what any of it means. Scientists believe that the FRB is coming from a spiral galaxy known as SDSS J015800.28+654253.0, which is located half a billion light-years from Earth. The signal has been labeled as “FRB 180916.J0158+65.”
In one recent study that looked over the data from the signals, it was noted that the FRBs can be observed for four days at a time before they stop for 12 days before repeating again.
The newest study, which was published this month, tracks the signal that has been named FRB 121102. There have been roughly 30 FRBs detected so far, but FRB 121102 seems to be in constant repetition.
— BBC North West (@BBCNWT) June 4, 2020
Now, after the re-opening of a massive radio telescope at Jodrell Bank Observatory in the UK, the pattern is being further decoded. An international team led by Jodrell Bank astronomers used the Lovell Telescope to study the FRBs, and have published their findings in a new paper on their long-term radio monitoring campaign which was published this week in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
The team discovered that each radio burst from FRB 121102 lasted approximately 90 days followed by a silent period of 67 days, followed by the same pattern every 157 days.