Telescopes have picked up a huge number of mysterious signals coming from deep in space, Australian researchers have announced.
The radio telescopes have nearly doubled the number of the known “fast radio bursts” – bright flashes of radio waves that make their way to Earth from deep space.
And the signals represent the closest and brightest of the bursts that have ever been found.
Fast radio bursts are one of the most mysterious phenomena in the universe. They are blasts of incredible energy – equivalent to the amount released by the Sun in 80 years – that last for just a moment, and come from a mysterious source.
Some have suggested they are being emitted by an extraterrestrial intelligence. Harvard University scientists suggested last year that they could be leaks from vast transmitters that are usually shooting at light sail ships to push them across the universe.
Others have suggested that less intelligent but equally spectacular causes, such as black holes or dense stars smashing into each other.
Now scientists have far more examples to study as they attempt to find where the blasts are coming from.
“We’ve found 20 fast radio bursts in a year, almost doubling the number detected worldwide since they were discovered in 2007,” said lead author Dr Ryan Shannon, from Swinburne University of Technology and the OzGrav ARC Centre of Excellence.
“Using the new technology of the Australia Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP), we’ve also proved that fast radio bursts are coming from the other side of the Universe rather than from our own galactic neighbourhood.”
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