23 January, 2015

Australian scientist first to catch mysterious alien radio signals

An Australian scientist has become the first person to witness a burst of radio waves, coming from an unknown source billions of light years away, arrive at Earth in real time.

Swinburne University PhD student Emily Petroff watched the fast radio burst, which lasted about a millisecond but gave off as much energy as the Sun does in a day, using the Parkes radio telescope in New South Wales.

The first burst was discovered by chance in 2007 by astronomers combing the Parkes data archive. Six more bursts have been found by Parkes since and a seventh by the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico.

"These bursts were generally discovered weeks, months or even more than a decade after they happened," Ms Petroff said in a statement.

"We are the first to catch one in real time."

Little is known about the radio waves, but the latest signal indicates that whatever caused it is giant, cataclysmic and up to 5.5 billion light years away.

Astronomers across the globe are now trying to explain the mysterious phenomenon.

CSIRO head of astrophysics Dr Simon Johnston said one of the front-running ideas is that a neutron star collapsed to form a black hole.

"If we can see that happening, it gives off a big flash of radio waves from the far, distant universe, and that's really very exciting," Dr Johnston told the ABC.

In another first, the burst was detected by telescopes across the world, at Australia, California, the Canary Islands, Chile, Germany, Hawaii, and India.

Ms Petroff said identifying the origin of the bursts is only a matter of time.

"We've set the trap. Now we just have to wait for another burst to fall into it."

Further Reading:
A real-time fast radio burst: polarization detection and multiwavelength follow-up http://mnras.oxfordjournals.org/content/447/1/246 (the actual article)
download the article here MNRAS-2015-Petroff-246-55.pdf 1MB

Cosmic radio burst caught red-handed - Swinburne University of Technology

Watch This Space! More Information Soon!

Link: http://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/australian-scientist-first-to-catch-mysterious-alien-radio-signals-20150120-12uikr.html


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