CSIRO's Parkes radio telescope with a representation of an FRB.

Breaking News: Scientists Reveal that Mysterious and Explosive Signals are Definitely Coming from Outer Space

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Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) are one of the most intriguing problems for modern astronomers – who or what is transmitting the short bursts of radio energy across the universe? And where exactly are the signals coming from?

First arriving on the astronomical scene about 10 years ago at CSIRO's Parkes radio telescope, Swinburne University of Technology describes FRBs as “millisecond-duration intense pulses of radio light that appear to be coming from vast distances. They are about a billion times more luminous than anything we have ever seen in our own Milky Way galaxy.”

Over 20 examples of FRBs have been noted over the years, but ever since they were discovered there have been conflicting views on their origins. As Phys.org mentions, many scientists have doubted the outer space origins of the signals completely, and have cited earthly interference for the existence of the radio energy bursts.

But Manisha Caleb, a PhD candidate at Australian National University, Swinburne University of Technology, and the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO), and her team have confirmed that the mysterious bursts of radio waves that astronomers have hunted for the past ten years definitely do come from outer space.

Although the origin of the signals has not been identified with certainty, Science Alert reports “the data suggest they're coming from the direction of the constellations Puppis and Hydra” (shown as three red stars in the image below):

The data suggests the signals are coming from the direction of the constellations Puppis and Hydra.

The data suggests the signals are coming from the direction of the constellations Puppis and Hydra. ( James Josephides/Mike Dalley )

Difficulty in pinpointing the origins of FRBs generally lies in the use of single-dish radio telescopes, which are limited in their ability to provide perspective on where the signals come from. As Chris Flynn from Swinburne University of Technology in Australia and one of the researchers on the latest study said: "Conventional single dish radio telescopes have difficulty establishing that transmissions originate beyond the Earth's atmosphere.”

That’s where the Molonglo telescope comes in. This telescope has an admirable collecting area of about 18,000 square meters (194,000 square feet) and a large field of view (eight square degrees on the sky) – making it a good choice for picking up FRBs. Even better for the scientists – the telescope’s architecture prevents it from detecting any signals coming from within our atmosphere.

A close-up view of the Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope.

A close-up view of the Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope. ( CC BY SA 3.0 )

And it was by using the Molonglo radio telescope that Ms. Caleb and her colleagues from Swinburne and the University of Sydney were able to detect and publish a recent report on three examples of Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs).

Funding from the Australian Research Council will help update the Molonglo telescope with the hopes that it will eventually be able to pinpoint specific galactic origins of FRBs. This will be invaluable, as lead researcher Manisha Caleb said: “Figuring out where the bursts come from is the key to understanding what makes them. Only one burst has been linked to a specific galaxy. We expect Molonglo will do this for many more bursts.”

Artist’s impression of a Fast Radio Burst (FRB) reaching Earth. Jingchuan Yu, Beijing Planetarium.

Artist’s impression of a Fast Radio Burst (FRB) reaching Earth. Jingchuan Yu, Beijing Planetarium. ( Youtube Screenshot )

Top Image:  CSIRO's Parkes radio telescope with a representation of an FRB. Source: Swinburne Astronomy Productions/CAASTRO/ CSIRO/Harvard/Youtube Screenshot

By Alicia McDermott

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