Mysterious ‘alien signal’ similar to heartbeat detected
A mysterious object billions of light years from Earth is emitting strong bursts of energy in a pattern similar to a heartbeat.
A team of astronomers, led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), detected what are formally known as fast radio bursts (FRBs), which are intense radio waves that typically last a few milliseconds.
However, newly detected FRBs persist for up to three seconds, about 1,000 times longer than the average.
The signal, called FRB 20191221A, is currently the longest-lasting FRB with the clearest periodic pattern detected to date.
While the researchers don’t know the source, one theory is that the signal is coming from a radio pulsar or magnetar, both types of neutron stars: collapsed cores of extremely dense and rapidly spinning giant stars.
The first FRB was detected in 2007, sparking a quest to find the source and hopefully uncover secrets about the space between galaxies by studying the signal’s path.
“There aren’t many things in the universe that emit strictly periodic signals,” said Daniele Michilli, a postdoctoral fellow at MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research.
“Examples that we know of in our own galaxy are radio pulsars and magnetars, which rotate and produce an emission similar to that of a lighthouse. And we think this new signal could be a magnetar or pulsar on steroids.”
Fast radio bursts, described as “brief and eerie lighthouses”, have been detected in various distant parts of the universe, as well as in our own galaxy.
Its origins are unknown and its appearance is unpredictable.
The discovery of FRB 20191221A was made by the CHIME telescope (Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment), located in British Columbia, Canada, has four U-shaped cylinders 100 meters long, which allows it to detect signs of when the universe was between six and 11 billion years.
And this telescope has nearly quadrupled the number of fast radio bursts discovered to date.
The pattern of radio bursts from FRB 20191221A has been found to have similarities to radio pulsar and magnetar emissions in our own galaxy.
The main difference between the new signal and radio emissions from our own galactic pulsars and magnetars is that FRB 20191221A appears to be over a million times brighter.
Professor Michilli said the bright flashes could come from a distant radio pulsar or magnetar that is normally dimmer as it rotates and, for some unknown reason, ejects “a train” of bright bursts, at a rare average of three seconds. . positioned to pick up.
“CHIME has now detected many FRBs with different properties,” continued Prof. Michelle.
“We’ve seen some that live inside very turbulent clouds, while others appear to be in clean environments.”
“From the properties of this new signal, we can say that around this source there is a plasma cloud that must be extremely turbulent.”
Astronomers hope to capture additional bursts from periodic FRB 20191221A, which could help narrow down the source of the signal and learn more about neutron stars.
“This detection raises the question of what could cause this extreme signal that we’ve never seen before and how we can use this signal to study the universe.”
“Future telescopes promise to discover thousands of FRBs per month, and by that time we may find many more of these periodic signals”, concludes Professor Michilli.
Is the universe alive?
Although for MIT the most plausible theory is that it is a radio pulsar or distant magnetar, there are those who have another explanation: that the “heartbeats” are irrefutable evidence that the universe is a living being.
More than two thousand years ago, Plato said, “The universe is a single living creature that encompasses all living creatures within itself.”
The living universe hypothesis says that the universe is a living organism. Therefore, it has characteristics of a living being, so it is built from information and with the processes of metabolism, adaptation and natural selection.