Astronomers involved in the Breakthrough Listen initiative, a $100 million project dedicated to search for signs of intelligent alien life, have detected 15 mysterious repeating flashes of light from a distant dwarf galaxy.
Repeating FRBs From Dwarf Galaxy FRB 121102
The galaxy FRB 121102 located about 3 billion light-years from planet Earth is a known source of fast radio bursts (FRBs), astrophysical phenomena characterized by radio wave emissions that appear for only a fraction of a second and tend to occur without a specific pattern.
FRBs are difficult to document and study. Astronomers have been mystified by FRBs since their discovery in 2007. Although they are known to come from distant galaxies, their potential origins are still a mystery.
Using the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, Berkeley SETI Research Center postdoctoral researcher Vishal Gajjar and colleagues detected the 15 new pulses on Aug. 26.
After making observations for a span of five hours and across the 4 to 8 GHz frequency band, also known as C-band often used for satellite communications transmissions, Gajjar and scientists involved in the Breakthrough Listen project gathered 400 terabytes of data. Analysis revealed the new pulses from FRB 121102.
Newly Observed FRBs Stand Out
Despite having detected FRBs from the dwarf galaxy before, astronomers said that the newly detected pulses stand out.
Berkeley SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Research Center director Andrew Siemion said that the bursts have never been observed at such a high frequency. The observations show for the first time that FRBs emit at higher frequencies than earlier observed. The brightest emission was observed to occur at around 7 GHz.
The researchers said that the findings could mean that FRB 121102 is in a heightened activity.
"This detection at such a high frequency helps us scrutinize many (of FRB 121102's) origin models," Gajjar said. "The frequency structure we see across our total band of 4 to 8 GHz also allows us to understand the intervening medium between us and the source."
Signatures Of Alien Technology?
It is not clear if the new FRBs from the dwarf galaxy are signals from intelligent alien life but the researchers hope that the Breakthrough Listen project can help shed more light on these mysterious signals and the mysteries of the universe.
"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.