An Alien Radio Beacon? Possibly Not This Time.

Excerpt from postpioneer.com

 

For practically a decade, astronomers have puzzled over strong bursts of radio energy that appear to be hailing from billions of light years away. Recently, we received reports of a new wrinkle to this mystery: The bursts seem to comply with a mathematical…

For practically a decade, astronomers have puzzled over strong bursts of radio energy that appear to be hailing from billions of light years away. Recently, we received reports of a new wrinkle to this mystery: The bursts seem to comply with a mathematical pattern, one that does not line up with something we know about cosmic physics.

And, of course, when we hear “mathematical pattern,” “radio transmission,” and “outer space,” all strung collectively, we straight away jump to our preferred explanation—aliens! (Or, you know, a decaying pulsar star, an unmapped spy satellite, or a cell telephone tower.)

It’s also probable that the pattern doesn’t exist.

Because 2007, telescopes have picked up almost a dozen so-known as “ radio bursts,” pulses that last for mere milliseconds, but erupt with as a great deal power as the sun releases in a month. could they be coming from? To come across out, a group of researchers took advantage of a basic principle: That radio waves encounter less interference as they traverse space, and are detected by our telescopes earlier than reduce frequency waves. The time , or “dispersion measure”, in between larger and reduce frequency radio waves from the very same pulse event can be applied to figure out the distance those waves traveled.

Here’s where things got weird. When researchers calculated the dispersion distance for each and every of eleven rapid radio bursts, they identified that every distance is an integer many of a single number: 187.5. When plotted on a graph, as the researchers show us in Figure 1 of their paper, the points type a striking pattern.

A single explanation is that the bursts are coming from distinctive sources, all at on a regular basis spaced intervals from the Earth, billions of . They could also be brought on by a smaller cosmic object a lot closer to residence, such as a pulsar star, behaving according to some sort of physics we don’t yet understand. And then there’s the possibility that aliens are trying to communicate, by blasting simple numeric patterns into space.

But no matter how you slice it, eleven data points is a tiny sample set to draw any meaningful conclusions from. A handful of deviant observations could bring about the complete pattern to unravel.

And that is precisely what seems to be happening. As Nadia Drake reports for , newer observations, not integrated in the most up-to-date scientific report or other well known media articles, don’t fit:

“There are 5 radio bursts to be reported,” says Michael Kramer of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Radioastronomy. “They do not fit the pattern.”
Rather of aliens, unexpected astrophysics, or even Earthly interference, the mysterious mathematical pattern is probably an artifact by a little sample size, Ransom says. When working with a limited quantity of data – say, a population of 11 quickly radio bursts – it’s straightforward to draw lines that connect the dots. Usually, on the other hand, these lines disappear when much more dots are added.
“My prediction is that this pattern will be washed out quite immediately after a lot more fast radio bursts are located,” says West Virginia University’s Duncan Lorimer, who reported the very first burst in 2007. “It’s a great instance of how apparently considerable final results can be identified in sparse information sets.”

That is a bit of a bummer, but nevertheless, these radio bursts are fascinating, and what could be causing them remains as a lot of a mystery as ever. It could even nonetheless be aliens, if not an alien beacon. As SETI Institute Director Seth Shostak told me in an e mail:

“If it is a signal, nicely, it is surely NOT a message — except perhaps to say ‘here we are’. There’s not actual bandwidth to it, which suggests these speedy radio bursts can not encode several bits. But there are so many other possibilities, I feel that automatically attributing one thing in the sky that we don’t (at very first) understand to the operate of aliens is … premature!”

If there’s 1 point that is clear in this whole organization, it is that we’ve nonetheless got plenty to discover about the patterns woven into around us.