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Mystery Intergalactic Radio Bursts Detected 259

Posted by timothy
from the fireworks-duh dept.
astroengine writes "Astronomers were on a celestial fishing expedition for pulsing neutron stars and other radio bursts when they found something unexpected in archived sky sweeps conducted by the Parkes radio telescope in New South Wales, Australia. The powerful signal, which lasted for just milliseconds, could have been a fluke, but then the team found three more equally energetic transient flashes all far removed from the galactic plane and coming from different points in the sky. Astronomers are at a loss to explain what these flashes are — they could be a common astrophysical phenomenon that has only just been detected as our radio antennae have become sensitive enough, or they could be very rare and totally new phenomenon that, so far, defies explanation."
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Mystery Intergalactic Radio Bursts Detected

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  • First post (Score:5, Funny)

    by PPH (736903) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @04:07PM (#44190051)

    And perhaps the last when the alien invasion force, of which we observed the launch, reaches earth.

    • by auric_dude (610172) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @04:11PM (#44190081)
      "Good morning. Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world, and you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind. Mankind, that word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can't be consumed by our petty differences any more. We will be united in our common interest. Perhaps it's fate that today is the 4th of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom. Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution, but from annihilation. We're fighting for our right to live, to existand should we win the day, the 4th of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day when the world declared in one voice, 'We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on, we're going to survive.' Today we celebrate our independence day!" President Thomas Whitmore July 4th, 1996
    • I'd back Ellen Ripley against an alien any day.
    • Re:First post (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @04:56PM (#44190367)

      "Two possibilities exist -- either we are alone in the universe or we are not. I am unsure which is more terrifying."

      • Re:First post (Score:5, Insightful)

        by anubi (640541) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @09:14PM (#44191805) Journal
        I have often pondered this as well... if there are another civilization out there. Advanced enough to build interstellar transport. Would they by their advanced technology be benevolent?

        Or would they be desperately looking for any habitable planet that had the capacity to support life?

        Would they consider us as we would consider finding a large land mass on earth, inhabited by roaches and rodents?

        From what I can tell, our Earth is a veritable jewel in the vastness of space. Our water is abundant, yet we have land, a stable orbit, a stable Sun. And a rich assortment of mineral elements. Its something any entity would greatly treasure. For now, its ours because "they" do not know it exists. If "they" knew about it, would they claim it was theirs?

        I feel if we are not alone, just the sheer laws of time and physics is all that separates us from other forces which could take everything we know away. I have a hard time thinking that if we are not alone in this universe, we are the most advanced. We would be in a poor position to wage any sort of war against those who have developed interstellar travel, as their ability to direct energy obviously is greater than ours, and directed energy is what wins wars.

        So far, I have seen little to suggest the existence of another species out there, but lack of evidence is not evidence they do not exist. From a cockroach's point of view, I probably do not exist either. Its only been within my generation that electromagnetism has been understood to a point we can use it as a communications medium. I have no idea what other technologies are out there, as of yet undiscovered, and no knowledge whatsoever of their existence.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Ghaoth (1196241)
          We already have a plan for any aliens that come to to planet Earth....Battleship..and Rihanna will save us. Whilst I am happy to search for alien life passively (observation), I am not so sure about doing it actively (big transmitters). Actively searching is like tracer bullets....they work both ways. ALL the life we have known on this planet (human, animal and plant) is powered by a need to survive and that usually means dominating other life. Would alien life be any different?
          • by celle (906675)

            "We already have a plan for any aliens that come to to planet Earth....Battleship..and Rihanna will save us."

                Ya. The aliens will take one look at those two and like the weasels on 'Roger Rabbit' laugh themselves to death!

        • See this 2007 discussion form more on this: http://science.slashdot.org/story/07/08/05/1450217/the-fermi-paradox-is-back [slashdot.org]

          Really, who wold want to live in a gravity well if they don't have to?
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elysium_(film) [wikipedia.org]
          http://www.itsbetteruphere.com/ [itsbetteruphere.com]
          http://space.mike-combs.com/l5-fcis.htm [mike-combs.com]
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_habitat [wikipedia.org]
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asteroid_mining [wikipedia.org]

          To go beyond what we can do with today's technology, quantum physics tells us that there is potentially an infinite amount of matter and energy in any finite volume of space. And visible space is vast (14 billion light years cubed, at least). There may be things that will still be fought over, but they are probably different things than access to matter and energy (aesthetics about hat colors?).

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero-point_energy#Utilization_Controversy [wikipedia.org]
          "As a scientific concept, the existence of zero-point energy is not controversial although the ability to harness it is."

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat_(Red_Dwarf) [wikipedia.org]
          "The race eventually splits and descends into civil war, over what colour the hats at the hot dog and doughnut stand Lister planned to open on Fiji were going to be (in the later-published novelization "Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers" the cause of the cat civil war is whether their god was named Cloister or Clister). Ironically the two factions claimed they were going to be red or blue, whilst Lister had wanted them to be green."

          Besides, methane breathers might find Earth fairly inhospitable, preferring, say, Saturn's moon Titan? And machine intelligence might prefer the Oort cloud for ready access to materials in zero gravity?

          • quantum physics tells us that there is potentially an infinite amount of matter and energy in any finite volume of space.

            Citation needed. Don't post the goat link.

        • by Ihlosi (895663)
          I have often pondered this as well... if there are another civilization out there. Advanced enough to build interstellar transport. Would they by their advanced technology be benevolent?

          Or would they be desperately looking for any habitable planet that had the capacity to support life?

          If they're advanced enough to build interstellar transport, they should have become used to living in space.

          From what I can tell, our Earth is a veritable jewel in the vastness of space. Our water is abundant, yet we ha

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by RedHackTea (2779623)
      Dude, it's Independence Day, no worries, as long as Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum are still alive.
    • Friggin teenage aliens playing with their pocket radio bursters trying to blind galactic telescopes.

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      And perhaps the last when the alien invasion force, of which we observed the launch, reaches earth.

      It's Uch Daikaij Dogora!

  • War! (Score:5, Funny)

    by JWSmythe (446288) <jwsmythe&jwsmythe,com> on Thursday July 04, 2013 @04:08PM (#44190055) Homepage Journal

        The intergalactic war is getting closer. We can hear the explosions now. It's only a matter of time before they get here. It's a good thing our space program has done so well, and we've started colonizing other planets, otherwise our species would be lost forever.

        Oh .. fuck .. We don't have a space program, only a high altitude orbital flight program. Well, it's been nice knowing you all.

    • Until we can actually leave the solar system if not the entire galaxy (physics not withstanding), perhaps it would be best to keep a low profile; as in don't announce our presence. If aliens can reach Earth, it would be easy for them to track down other colonies nearby and commence with the extermination.

      • by JWSmythe (446288)

        Too late. We've been broadcasting a wealth of signals out to them. At about 85 light years out, they'll be listening to Hiter's Nuremberg rallies. [bbc.co.uk] By the time they find out that we've even invented nuclear weapons, they'll be well on their way.

        They may be concerned when they see we have achieved space travel. Their concern will drop as they watch our space programs dissolve into obscurity.

        Having colonies out there is a better chance that not having them at all. They may only be interested in the eas

        • by arth1 (260657)

          They may be concerned when they see we have achieved space travel. Their concern will drop as they watch our space programs dissolve into obscurity.

          I wonder what aliens without a concept of fiction would think if they saw Star Trek, Star Wars or Battlestar Galactica.

          Too bad I won't find out, because our signals are way too weak to reach anywhere and be distinguishable from general noise.. Even if they had giant radio ears pointed precisely in our direction (or where we were when the signals were transmitted), and filtered out all the radio noise from the sun, our feeble omnidirectional transmissions would drown in the much more powerful radio signals

          • by JWSmythe (446288)

            Ya... I prefer to pretend the RF noise of the universe doesn't exist, so they may see us. Then again, if a space traveling race does find us, do we really want them seeing all the old scifi first? Our goal, according to all of the older scifi was to kill first, and burn the bodies later.

      • Re:War! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by RubberDogBone (851604) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @07:54PM (#44191443)

        There are generally two reasons anything would want to attack Earth: 1) we're a threat. 2) we have resources not more easily obtained elsewhere

        For the first point, we are a threat to nothing and noone. Our weapons are simple and not very powerful. They are also very short-ranged and we are tremendously preoccupied with killing each other. We're not externally dangerous and unlikely to become so any time soon. We have no ability to wage war in space, much less across any sort of stellar distances. We possess exactly zero capability to use wormholes, warps, time travel, or other exotic ways to move the human initiative anywhere else.

        For the second point, essentially all the elements and minerals found on Earth can also be found elsewhere, where there might not be so many humans in the way. What weapons we do have would make an invasion troublesome and needlessly complicated. Suppose aliens need water? No need to come all the way to Earth to invade when you can harvest a few Oort comets and you're done. Earth would never even notice and couldn't object even if it wanted to. But in practice, any advanced space-faring species would have probably figured out how to manufacture resources when needed, so they may have even less need to harvest anything.

        A lot of scifi is bogged down with the concept of aliens needing something from Earth, but this concept is mostly not plausible. Water is everywhere. Minerals are everywhere. No, they don't even need to eat us. If you can cross space by whatever method, you have probably figured out food or evolved or engineered yourselves beyond the need to eat constantly like humans do.

        Really, the only reasons to bother with Earth would be to obtain samples, to observe what's happening, or to manipulate the planet or it's contents (people, animals, resources) in some manner. The classic concepts of an invasion force and human extermination don't fit with either of those plans.

        • What about real estate? Perhaps habitable worlds (in the goldilocks zone, spinning core, geologically stable, etc) are rare, and if an alien species would find our gravity and air tolerable, then this world could be of incredible value to them. Even if we haven't exactly left it in pristine condition.

          As for threats, we really can't assume that a spacefaring race would be so far ahead of us as to find us no threat to them. Perhaps it took their civilisation a few millenia to go from the beginnings of i
        • by Jmc23 (2353706)
          Comedy. You forgot comedy!

          There's nothing funnier than pushing a humans buttons and watching them act out their prerecorded prejudices and beliefs :)

        • Interesting points.

          Unfortunately there are also concepts like fun, sports and Predator movies.

        • by zedrdave (1978512)
          You are absolutely and unequivocally right.

          That leaves only one possibility: Hunting for sport!
        • Re:War! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by lightknight (213164) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @09:41PM (#44191885) Homepage

          Or Earth may simply be a refueling point between points of interest. I imagine that aliens of some advanced races will have discovered an asymmetric process for creating anti-matter, or something like that; at which point, places like this solar system might just be the equivalent of a gas station. Whether they decide to fuel up from a gas giant, such as Neptune, or from a planet like Earth, may not be much of a decision, especially if they aren't looking for life, have no experience with lifeforms of this design, or have detected lifeforms and simply wish to avoid contact.

          Or Earth may be a target of some consequence. Think about it: what if humanity does get off this rock, and pisses off the wrong people? They may decide, rather than fighting a war (with weapons, and so on, that humans excel at), to visit the Earth's immediate past, and introduce a virus that will render them incapable of posing a problem in the future; or they may just drop a black hole on the planet itself. Or mankind may find itself to be the enemy: some group of exo-haters decide to travel back in time to 'make sure those aliens never have a chance to set foot on this planet'; they sprinkle the right information, to the right groups, to ensure that first contact results in a very bad impression; possibly taking up positions in the military / other places where they can use their influence, quietly, to achieve their ends. Perhaps those aliens are being scapegoated for bad policy decisions, or perhaps they are simply a victim of 'they took our jobs!' Or even some, I don't know, environmentalists, who have seen the future, and think it should be greener.

          Heck, there may even be the equivalent of alien socialites...people who just like stopping by, having a little fun, then moving on.

          There are many, many reasons that Earth may or may not be on someone's roadmap, by intent or by accident. But I think we all know that if one of them shows up here, chances are the military will see them as a threat, and either try to pump them for information ("Tell us how to build a warp drive!"), or even for propaganda (if politicians get involved). Do you disagree? Does anyone disagree? Does anyone, at all, think that for a not small number of nations, first contact might be a little 'rough' for humanity? And there in lies the sadness -> denied contact for lack of maturation, because of some fear that others have come to enslave, or do harm, or what have you; denied contact, because humanity's own fear prevents it from moving forward.

          Now, I could be wrong. Perhaps we will make a mistake, invite the wrong people down. But I'd rather make that mistake, that be ruled eternally by fear.

        • A lot of scifi is bogged down with the concept of aliens needing something from Earth, but this concept is mostly not plausible. Water is everywhere. Minerals are everywhere. No, they don't even need to eat us. If you can cross space by whatever method, you have probably figured out food or evolved or engineered yourselves beyond the need to eat constantly like humans do.

          What if the aliens require massive computing power? The large mass of sentient brains of this planet could be a very rare thing in the cosmos. Complex chemistry for life is common all over the universe. Maybe multicellular life is also common in this universe. But a massively parallel simulating biological computer is probably rare enough to encounter that it's easier for them to coopt rather than engineer.

          It's not hard to imagine, at least for me, that an alien race may find it easier to build on biolog

          • Re:War! (Score:4, Funny)

            by swalve (1980968) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @10:48PM (#44192093)
            Man, we think we have trouble getting the right answers out of the internet. Imagine some poor space geek trying to get calculations out of Mainframe Earth, and all he keeps getting is porn, fart jokes and funny hats that start wars.
        • by dudpixel (1429789)

          What if WE are the resources not more easily obtained elsewhere?

        • by evilviper (135110)

          A lot of scifi is bogged down with the concept of aliens needing something from Earth, but this concept is mostly not plausible.

          How about just colonization? A nice young star, with a planet of the ideal mass, located in the habitable zone?

          Surely teraforming a planet must be difficult, or at least slow, and removing all the primitive monkeys from your new home is the easier way to go.

        • by Phat_Tony (661117)
          How long might it take us to become a threat? Interstellar space-faring aliens may have civilizations millions or billions of years old. They may have seen annoying upstart civilizations seem as harmless as one gnat to all the world's militaries, but then leave them alone for just a few tens or hundreds of thousand years, and all of a sudden they're some kind of annoyance. How often do they happen through this part of space? The universe is a big place. Monitoring may be resource intensive and error prone.
        • To be fair, as far as 'we're a threat', this includes 'we could become a threat in the future'. Why wait for us to become strong enough to be troublesome to mop-up, when they could mop us up now?

          It's a bit like keeping the fridge clean. You don't wait until it grows monsters that will actually attack you. You simply clean the surfaces occasionally, get rid of any traces of mold and stuff.

    • by Xyrus (755017)

      It's nothing to worry about. It's just the alien equivalent of toilet papering a galaxy.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      Colonizing Mars to protect against interstellar war would be like having your safe house on your patio. As for colonizing other planets we haven't got the technology for that any more than you could go to the moon with a horse carriage, just adding more horses won't help. It would be interesting to get started but I except a Mars colony to be dependent on Earth for centuries.

      • by JWSmythe (446288)

        If we had continued working towards colonizing the moon and Mars, our technology would have grown better to meet those goals.

        The horse carriage would have never grown into the horseless carriage, and finally the modern automobile, if we all lived together on a 2 square mile island. There's no reason to drive 150mph, if it would shorten your trip to under 1 minute.

        If there were regular commuter flights from Earth to Mars, you can be sure we'd have improved. Look at the difference between a Model 14 Benois [space.com]

        • It's not a lack of demand for transportation to drive development of space technology, we need a good reason to colonize the moon or Mars in the first place. A good economic reason; science or an abstract notion like survival of the species isn't going to cut it given the staggering cost of such an undertaking. Europe's colonization of Americas wasn't exactly cheap or safe, but it brought tangible returns for both the colonists and the investors. Mars? What are we even going to do there?
          • by JWSmythe (446288)

            That's the big problem. The space program was for the advancement of humanity, and showing the Russians we have the bigger phallus shaped rockets. When that died off, it became about money. Unless you can show that Mars has a cache of cocaine covered gold bricks, it won't ever be financially "worth" it.

            We won't know what kind of financial incentive exists on the planet until we actually go there and explore more than a few feet around a landing spot.

            • Cocaine covered gold bricks? You vastly underestimate the cost of returning weight from Mars.

              Mars might turn out to be a fuel stop. More likely a martian moon.

    • "Oh .. fuck .. We don't have a space program, only a high altitude orbital flight program. Well, it's been nice knowing you all."

      Dolphins are still there, so not time to worry yet.

      • by JWSmythe (446288)

        It's a trick! They're the advance force, gathering intelligence on us. They've been reporting our advancement the whole time!

    • by BlueStrat (756137)

      The intergalactic war is getting closer. We can hear the explosions now.

      Yeah, I get your point, and I see the possibility.

      Could also just as easily be "warp signatures" rather than explosions, and have absolutely nothing to do with us at all That's even granting it were some intelligence and assuming on top of that, that it both knows of our existence and/or is capable of caring (or even "knowing" as we think of it).

      Back a few weeks ago, I posted in a /. story about the plans a group of researchers had to set up a continuous interstellar radio beacon, and in a thread therein co

  • Required (Score:5, Funny)

    by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @04:11PM (#44190083)
    "I for one welcome our new..."

    Ah, nevermind.
  • by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo @ w orld3.net> on Thursday July 04, 2013 @04:15PM (#44190111) Homepage

    Biting the cables. Each bust is one being electrocuted.

  • They got our signals, and are sending them back so we do better next time.
    • by icebike (68054)

      Cute, but even assuming the power (which we don't have) to send radio that far, it would not have reached them yet, for another million years or so.

      They came from widely separated place beyond our Galaxy.

      • by Rockoon (1252108)

        They came from widely separated place beyond our Galaxy.

        We don't know that. All we know is a couple directions, not their distance. Could be from craft surrounding our solar system...

  • by sidthegeek (626567) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @04:27PM (#44190199)
    It's time to start playing Indian Love Call.
    • You bastard! I had blocked that out! I had completely forgotten about that horrible movie, and you brought it all back! I curse you and your progeny for a thousand generations!!!
      Back to therapy for me.
  • Four bursts? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 04, 2013 @04:32PM (#44190225)

    Quick! Triangulate where in space time that these four events wavefronts will arrive simultaneously..

    And point all your telescopes there.

    • Re:Four bursts? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 04, 2013 @09:46PM (#44191909)

      It's too late. We've detected all four events, so we're inside the expanding spherical wavefronts of all of them: the intersection has already happened. Because they were all detected so close together (less than a year apart), the intersection must have been very close; and since the last one was over a year ago (January 2012), any signal from the intersection point has already passed us by.

      The other problem is that single-dish radio telescopes don't give us a very precise idea of where the signal comes from. We just know that each of them came from somewhere in a patch of sky about the size of the moon. Ideally, what we'd like to do is to detect one of these signals with two telescopes at once. That would confirm that it's a real thing (rather than a bug in one of the telescopes); and the times of arrival at the two telescopes would tell us very precisely where the signal came from.

      (I am a radio astronomer, but I don't work on the type of transients described in the article.)

  • by Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @04:34PM (#44190239)

    Okay just hold on a minute. FTA:

    What is known is that in just a few milliseconds, each of the signals released about as much energy as the sun emits in 300,000 years.

    That's a third of a million years worth of the energy output from the entire sun in milliseconds and no corresponding light flash or other radiation? Could the sources possibly be weaker and closer and we just got the maths wrong?

  • by ArcadeMan (2766669) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @04:34PM (#44190241)

    It's the TARDIS causing cracks in the space-time continuum.

  • That we use radio to send signals that shows our intelligence (or lack of it) don't mean that it only be produced artificially. Is the result of a natural process, maybe a supernova or pulsar. And whatever it was, we survived it, if were a i.e. close supernova the light and the rest of radiation should had come pretty close to the radio burst, 2 years ago.
  • Can explain it, there does not have to be anything at the apparent location.
  • it just took them this long to find them.

  • It's just an intergalactic flash mob.

  • Bringing screaming temporal doom!

  • Pretty much we are done.

  • by Thiarna (111890) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @06:30PM (#44191053)
    Mosquitoes.

    They have come such a long way that by the time they reach the Earth, the Parkes telescope would have to operate for 1 million years to collect enough to have the equivalent energy of a flying mosquito

  • some aliens were rejoicing at Paula Deen's demise... :)
  • by manu0601 (2221348) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @10:09PM (#44191987)
    ...does NSA have a program to record that?

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