Scientists are baffled at the recent discovery of radio signals reaching Earth every 16 days. These fast radio bursts (FRB) are not uncommon, but this is the first time they have been recorded on a recurring cycle. The researchers who first discovered this anomaly are trying to figure out the exact source, but so far the radio signals remain a mystery.
What Are Fast Radio Bursts?
A Fast Radio Burst is a common occurrence that generally originates from deep space, though the sources can vary. In essence, a fast radio burst is a radio pulse that lasts for only a few milliseconds.
When it occurs, the burst is extremely energetic, though it loses nearly all of its energy by the time it reaches Earth. Though scientists can generally pinpoint the area from which a fast radio pulse originates, they have yet to discover exactly how or why they occur.
What’s Special About These Recent Fast Radio Bursts?
While there’s not much information about the recent Fast Radio Bursts, we do know that they are repeating every 16 days. Repeating radio bursts are not unheard of, but this is the first time that they have come on a precise, cyclical schedule. Between September 2018 and October 2019, Canadian researchers recorded these Fast Radio Bursts coming from a single source about 500 million light-years away from Earth.
The pulses would first appear once every few hours for exactly 4 days, before suddenly going silent for 12 days. Then, the cycle would repeat itself. This is the first time that scientists have detected FRB’s repeating on any kind of organized schedule.
Why Are These Mysterious Radio Signals Repeating Every 16 Days?
The answer is that no one really knows. The researchers only have limited information about the FRB’s and little is known about the massive spiral galaxy from which they originated. That said, the team of scientists has developed a few theories.
Some of the researchers theorize that the repeating cycle could be the result of the orbital motion of a star. Since stars and planets generally orbit on a consistent, repeating basis, it would make sense that radio signals emitting from them would also occur with a set periodicity. However, this would not explain the mystery in its entirety.
Another theory suggests that these FRB’s are coming from neutron stars in OB-type star systems. Neutron stars are some of the smallest stars in the galaxy, but they are incredibly dense. Alternatively, OB-type stars are massive and only live for a short period of time.
The interaction between these two, in combination with the wind coming off of OB-type stars, could explain the strange radio signals. Needless to say, repeated radio signals from deep space sound like the kind of thing you would see in a science fiction movie.
While researchers are hesitant to jump to any conclusions, the possibility of extraterrestrial communications cannot be entirely dismissed. Nonetheless, we will have to wait for more information to see exactly how and why these mysterious radio signals are reaching us here on Earth.