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Arecibo Radio Telescope Confirms Extra-galactic Fast Radio Pulses 95

Posted by Soulskill
from the Romulan-morse-code dept.
schwit1 writes: "The Arecibo radio telescope has confirmed the existence of fast radio pulses. "Fast radio bursts (FRBs) are bright flashes of radio waves that last only a few thousandths of a second. Scientists using the Parkes Observatory in Australia recorded such events for the first time, but the lack of any similar findings by other facilities led to speculation that the Australian instrument might have been picking up signals originating from sources on or near Earth. The discovery at Arecibo is the first detection of a fast radio burst using an instrument other than the Parkes radio telescope. The position of the radio burst is in the direction of the constellation Auriga in the Northern sky.

"Our result is important because it eliminates any doubt that these radio bursts are truly of cosmic origin," continues Victoria Kaspi, an astrophysics professor at McGill University in Montreal and Principal Investigator for the pulsar-survey project that detected this fast radio burst. "The radio waves show every sign of having come from far outside our galaxy – a really exciting prospect." Exactly what may be causing such radio bursts represents a major new enigma for astrophysicists. Possibilities include a range of exotic astrophysical objects, such as evaporating black holes, mergers of neutron stars, or flares from magnetars — a type of neutron star with extremely powerful magnetic fields." Be warned: All of the above theories could also be wrong. These fast radio flashes could just as easily turn out to be something entirely unpredicted.
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Arecibo Radio Telescope Confirms Extra-galactic Fast Radio Pulses

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  • First contact? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11, 2014 @12:13PM (#47432451)
    Has anyone tried running these through some pattern recognition algorithms? This could easily be our first contact with a truly extraterrestrial intelligence.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by alphaminus (1809974)
      Being extragalactic, if so they would likely be from a long dead civilization, but yeah. Also that would have to be one hell of an antenna.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11, 2014 @12:29PM (#47432585)
      Just did. Turns out they're looking for H1-B applications.
      • by roc97007 (608802) on Friday July 11, 2014 @12:44PM (#47432699) Journal

        Just did. Turns out they're looking for H1-B applications.

        Unfortunately, we didn't have any openings for reactionless engine technicians or 4th order energy engineers.

        • by Obfuscant (592200)

          Unfortunately, we didn't have any openings for reactionless engine technicians or 4th order energy engineers.

          You misunderstood. It was the aliens looking for cheap human labor that could be exploited. I mean, you go all the way to Alma Crematoria to take a job and it turns out you're becoming an indentured servant, what are you gonna do? Are you going to be able to afford a ticket back to the Earth? You think you'll find another job there, without good language skills and a degree from an Alma Crematorium university? You may wind up picking cabbage ... or working at Walmart. By the time you get there they'll have

        • They are looking for people to work on legacy COBOL apps.

          5 eons experience needed.

      • by wavswpr (2882257)

        Just did. Turns out they're looking for H1-B applications.

        When decoded it reads as: "Send More Chuck Berry"

    • by Anonymous Coward

      And hook up a TV and big speakers to isolate the signal. Then once we decode it, we can transport a volunteer to the alien planet. Though, we should build two, just in case a religious terrorist blows one up. If we do this carefully, with Small moves, it's possible. Small moves.

      • And hook up a TV and big speakers to isolate the signal. Then once we decode it, we can transport a volunteer to the alien planet. Though, we should build two, just in case a religious terrorist blows one up. If we do this carefully, with Small moves, it's possible. Small moves.

        If you're going to channel "Contact" at least use the novel instead of the movie. The novel was enormously better. Not that that says much, as the movie was awful.

    • by r1348 (2567295)

      Yes, and the result was dicks. They're sending us dick pics.

    • by mbone (558574)

      One burst from one location in the sky, then weeks or months later, another burst from another location in the sky. I don't think a pattern recognition algorithm is going to help you much.

    • Make Money FAST!!

    • An extragalactic origin, if correct, would put the source likely millions of light years away. An artificial radio source detectable over that distance would take a truly phenomenal amount of power, on par with stellar events like supernovae or black hole mergers. Or it would need to be very narrowly beamed, in which case how does ET know to point in our direction?

      Bear in mind that the entire RF output of our planet (radio waves streaming into space) would not be detectable by Arecibo even 10 light years aw

      • by gewalker (57809)

        It is a very narrow beam, but they don't point it in our direction. Imagine a then wedge of laser/maser, etc. light being broadcast outward radially on a continuous basis. As the planet rotates, the wedge sweeps pretty much every angle. As you see the wedge only when it points directly at you, it appears to blink very rapidly

    • by Nivag064 (904744)

      Come in #3, your time is up!

  • The summary doesn't mention extra terrestrials. Is this because they don't want to jump to conclusions or is it because the nature of the pulses doesn't appear to be organic?
    • What would an organic RF pulse look like?
    • by osu-neko (2604)

      The summary doesn't mention extra terrestrials. Is this because they don't want to jump to conclusions or is it because the nature of the pulses doesn't appear to be organic?

      When astronomers point a telescope at the sky and see a large bright object, they tend to assume it's a star, not a giant alien lighthouse. If they see a bright flash of light, they assume it's due to some natural process and not an alien strobe-light. Is there some reason they would jump to an "it's aliens" conclusion in this case? You do understand that light is light, right? Even if the wavelength puts it in the radio-frequencies instead of the visible-spectrum? There's no particular reason light in

      • by sumdumass (711423)

        Is there some reason they would jump to an "it's aliens" conclusion in this case?

        It's in the wording of the article summery. Radio pulse sort of initially brings thoughts of a radio station receiver like in a car or home theater, a purpose constructed signal meant to convey messages. Add in the "might have been picking up signals originating from sources on or near Earth" and it kind of reinforces the sentiment of a constructed signal.

        GP isn't the only one making that jump either. There are some posts abou

        • by Rich0 (548339)

          You get a radio pulse every time lightning strikes. I think that this is a fairly unlikely explanation. If it were more regular and had some kind of repeating pattern to it then I'd start thinking galactic navigation beacon or something, but natural pulsars probably work well enough for that already.

      • by dryeo (100693)

        The history of the discovery of pulsars shows that sometimes aliens are seriously considered. In this case, given the distances involved, the energy requirements make it unlikely to be artificial.

  • by MondoGordo (2277808) on Friday July 11, 2014 @12:14PM (#47432461)
    Aliens ...sending us messages a million years ago ... ?
    • by Arkh89 (2870391)

      Aliens ...playing with EMPs a million years ago?

    • by ShakaUVM (157947)

      >Aliens ...sending us messages a million years ago ... ?

      Drink your Ovaltine.

    • by jovius (974690)

      While fast radio bursts last just a few thousandths of a second and have rarely been detected, the new result confirms previous estimates that these strange cosmic bursts occur roughly 10,000 times a day over the whole sky.

      That's a lot of aliens. Or maybe we are inside of a slow thinking alien's head.

      • While fast radio bursts last just a few thousandths of a second and have rarely been detected, the new result confirms previous estimates that these strange cosmic bursts occur roughly 10,000 times a day over the whole sky.

        That's a lot of aliens.

        Well, since there are 100 to 200 billion galaxies in the observable universe [space.com], not so many. One burst per galaxy every 50,000 years or so.

        Or maybe we are inside of a slow thinking alien's head.

  • by jpellino (202698)
    ... it's a giant submarine http://www.navy.mil/navydata/c... [navy.mil]
  • Be warned: All of the above theories could also be wrong. These fast radio flashes could just as easily turn out to be something entirely unpredicted.

    We've listed several things which could do it, but we really have no freakin' idea of what causes them, so this is all purely speculation.

    • Yes, and I have a big problem with them being called "theories." They are at best hypotheses, and likely pure speculation. Scientists get mad when creationists say, "Oh, but you call it the THEORY of Evolution, that means it's not necessarily true!" and say creationists don't know the meaning of the word theory. Ok, then, use it correctly yourselves.
      • Okay, reading the article now, it looks like only the Slashdot summary uses the word "theory" in this way, not the article. Still, in general, the point stands.
  • by PPH (736903)

    In Morse code: 'Come in Rangoon.'

  • difficulty (Score:3, Interesting)

    by micahraleigh (2600457) on Friday July 11, 2014 @12:20PM (#47432521)
    How difficult would it be to capture something like this? Couldn't a normal sensor sensitive to this wavelength capture this since the integration time is probably going to be longer than a few thousandths of a second?

    Is it an obstacle that this is very rare? Or very faint?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Clearly these FRBs need to be downconverted to audio so a deaf guy can just "hear" the data in them, right on up to the higher order harmonics.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    What's the frequency, Kenneth?

  • ...they have experience with this kind of thing.

  • "Please stop broadcasting re-runs of welcome back kotter.....!"
  • My bet is that someone are saying "hello, have anyone there listening?" and they may be closer than researchers believe.
  • It reads.... "If you go to Z'ha'Dum, you will die".
    Apparently it's a personal message for Commander Sheridan.

  • Problem solved.

    Next?

  • "These fast radio flashes could just as easily turn out to be something entirely unpredicted."

    Like someone stalled on the hyperspace bypass.. they keep trying to restart the ship but it just will not catch...

  • We need to send in Jodie Foster, NOW!

  • Given the speed of light. It sounds to me like this was something that happened Long Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far Far Away...

    This seems to ring a bell, but I can't place it.
  • These fast radio flashes could just as easily turn out to be something entirely unpredicted.

    Music for Airports? Bowie? Art Bell?

  • by amaurea (2900163) on Saturday July 12, 2014 @03:45AM (#47437025) Homepage

    As usual with astronomy articles, it can be found on the arXiv [arxiv.org], freely available to all. It goes into much more detail than the article linked in the summary. Here is the abstract:

    Recent work has exploited pulsar survey data to identify temporally isolated, millisecond-duration radio bursts with large dispersion measures (DMs). These bursts have been interpreted as arising from a population of extragalactic sources, in which case they would provide unprecedented opportunities for probing the intergalactic medium; they may also be linked to new source classes. Until now, however, all so-called fast radio bursts (FRBs) have been detected with the Parkes radio telescope and its 13-beam receiver, casting some concern about the astrophysical nature of these signals. Here we present FRB 121102, the first FRB discovery from a geographic location other than Parkes. FRB 121102 was found in the Galactic anti-center region in the 1.4-GHz Pulsar ALFA survey with the Arecibo Observatory with a DM = 557.4 \pm 3 pc cm^{-3}, pulse width of 3\; \pm 0.5 ms, and no evidence of interstellar scattering. The observed delay of the signal arrival time with frequency agrees precisely with the expectation of dispersion through an ionized medium. Despite its low Galactic latitude (b = -0.2^{\circ}), the burst has three times the maximum Galactic DM expected along this particular line-of-sight, suggesting an extragalactic origin. A peculiar aspect of the signal is an inverted spectrum; we interpret this as a consequence of being detected in a sidelobe of the ALFA receiver. FRB 121102's brightness, duration, and the inferred event rate are all consistent with the properties of the previously detected Parkes bursts.

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