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For a number of years scientists studying the world beyond this solar system have been detecting incredibly intriguing and enigmatic radio bursts which blare out for a matter of milliseconds at a time with an intense power which can be equivalent to that generated by 500 million suns.
It is estimated that the known universe experiences as many as 2000 of these Fast Radio Bursts every day but no one has ever been able to pinpoint the exact reason why they occur. Now a group of researchers from Harvard University thinks that they may have discovered the reason – an advanced extra-terrestrial civilization.
There have been a huge number of theories on the subject of Fast Radio Bursts ever since they were first detected. The leading hypothesis at this current time is that the bursts come from the most volatile and explosively energy releasing events that the universe experiences – such as black holes ejecting cosmic material, explosions of supernovae and magnetars.
Fascinated researchers decided to put the theory to the test by locating the source of these mysterious waves. This in itself was an incredibly difficult task. Fast Radio Bursts only tend to last for around five milliseconds at a time and seemed to be completely random in their origin. However, scientists got lucky when they realized that some radio waves were coming from the same point in the Milky War, in a faint dwarf galaxy approximately 3 billion light years away from Earth. The fact that these Fast Radio Bursts are emanating from the same place in the universe has potentially huge implications. According to the researchers at Harvard, this does suggest that the radio bursts might be being deliberately generated by an extra-terrestrial species.
“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, “says theoretical physicist Avi Loeb from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics. “An artificial origin is worth contemplating and checking.”
The team said that they wished to put forward the hypothesis that the bursts were being set up by an extra-galactic civilization so that they could power light sails. Lightsails are only a theoretical possibility for space travel here on Earth wherein it is proposed that space crafts could be powered by the momentum of photons (light particles) which could be drawn either from the rays of the Sun or lasers based on Earth. It is possible, the researchers suggest, that a much further advanced civilization could have already managed to create this technology and are using on a fairly regular basis.
Naturally, this explanation is primarily based on speculation, and the researchers are comfortable admitting that they may well be wrong in their assumption. Loeb explains that this is fairly common when examining the new phenomenon. Scientists are often forced to throw out a huge number of speculating theories in order to provide a foundation to see which explanation is best supported by evidence. “Although the possibility that FRBs are produced by extragalactic civilizations is more speculative than an astrophysical origin, quantifying the requirements necessary for an artificial origin serves, at the very least, the important purpose of enabling astronomers to rule it out with future data, “said the team.
The paper has been accepted for publication in an upcoming edition of Astrophysical Journal Letters, and you can read it for free now at https://arxiv.org/abs/1701.01109