Strange signals that have been coming from a mysterious object in a galaxy that is over 500 million light-years away is one puzzle that researchers are yet to solve.

These mysterious signals always appear every 16 days, with the same pattern and message.

However, experts have not deciphered these signals to make sense of what it all means, even though its origin has been established.

In 2017, a Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics theorist, Avi Loeb, disclosed in a press release that: 

“Fast radio bursts are exceedingly bright given their short duration and origin at great distances, and we haven’t identified a possible natural source with any confidence.”

Until recently, astronomers were unable to detect a pattern in these signals, which are now referred to as Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs).

Reports suggest that researchers in the past have detected similar signals; however, these appear at random intervals without a specifically timed progression, as we have seen with the recent signals.

The pattern was first detected by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment Fast Radio Burst Project (CHIME/FRB).

The CHIME/FRB then tracked the signals until they realized that it has a repeating pattern and appears within 16 days interval. The signal was labeled as FRB 180916.J0158+65.

Researchers have revealed that these bursts can sometimes be observed for four days before they cease for 12 days and then repeat the same pattern in the same circle.

Between September of 2018 and October of last year, the first 28 cycles were observed.

These signals were detected using the CHIME radio telescope in British Columbia.

Authors of this study believe that the discovery of a 16-day periodicity will provide an important clue to the nature of this mysterious object.

The report reads, in part:

“We conclude that this is the first detected periodicity of any kind in an FRB source. The discovery of a 16.35-day periodicity in a repeating FRB source is an important clue to the nature of this object,”

Theories About These Mysterious Radio Signals

Scientists are of the opinion that the FRB is coming from a spiral galaxy known as SDSS J015800.28+654253.0.

This galaxy is estimated to be located half a billion light-years from Earth.

Even though half a billion light-years seems like a long distance, which it is, this FRB coming from the SDSS galaxy is still the closest FRB that has ever been detected.

In a different study, researchers argued that the pattern could be consistent with that of a binary star system containing a massive star and a dense neutron star.

These signals are incredibly compelling, mainly because they seem to be somewhat organized due to the precise timing in which scientists have observed them.

However, some researchers have pointed out that it could be possible for a natural process such as a black hole to create similar signals that appear to be organized, or appear in a specific time progression.

Dr. Jean-Pierre Macquart, a senior lecturer at ICRAR/Curtin University, explained that FRBs are astrophysical events that last for milliseconds.

Although we know that they come from somewhere outside our galaxy, there are many fundamental properties of the FRBs that we do not yet understand.

He further opined that there are lots of explanations for these mysterious bursts.

According to him:

“Maybe they are two very dense stars merging into one another or just stars that explode.”

Dr. Ryan Shannon, a lecturer at the Swinburne University of technology and the OzGrav Center of Excellence, believes that these bursts may be a result of collisions between neutron centers and a black hole.

As a scientist he says:

“I love to solve mysteries, and I always want to understand what makes up the universe and where things are coming from.”

“That is why this research that we are doing is so important because it will at least enable us to get a handle on some of the fundamental properties of these bursts.”

Due to different theories by experts and inadequate information about these FRBs, researchers have not been able to ascertain if these signals are coming from any intelligent life.

However, this possibility has not been ruled out either.

Since there is so much room in the universe and so many galaxies that humans are yet to explore, there is a very good chance that there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.

ASKAP Is The Future Of This Research

The Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) is a radio telescope located in Muchison Radio-astronomy Observation in Mid-West Australia.

ASKAP is a unique instrument because it has an electronic phase direct field. This instrument allows scientists to see 36 different parts of the sky simultaneously.

With the invention of ASKAP, researchers can now pinpoint the time and place where an FRB is going to happen.

The Principal Research Engineer at CSIRO, Dr. Keith Bannister, explained that.

“ASKAP covers more areas in the sky hence, and it increases our chances of seeing one.”

Before the invention of ASKAP, it took the world’s best telescope ten years to find approximately 20 FRBs. On the other hand, it took a team of scientists who used the state-of-the-art ASKAP telescope, one year to find 20 fast radio bursts.

In a report, Dr. Ryan Shannon, who is a member of this research team, revealed the results they have obtained so far.

“Although it is still very difficult to work out which galaxy these FRBs are coming from, we’ve been able to measure their positions more accurately than other telescopes. We also confirmed that these bursts are coming from halfway across the universe.”

He strongly believes that ASKAP will play a key role in their bid to detect, identify, understand, and decipher these mysterious radio signals.

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