Astronomers detect 15 signals from mysterious object in distant galaxy

Posted September 01, 2017

"As has happened with myriad other "strange" phenomena (the CMB, pulsars themselves, gamma ray bursts, etc), we will probably find a natural explanation for FRB 121102 that, while not having to do with extraterrestrial intelligence, will never-the-less teach us something new about the universe", he said.

Backed by Mark Zuckerberg, Stephen Hawking, and the billionaire entrepreneur Yuri Milner, The Breakthrough Listen initiative was able to record these odd signals thanks to the Green Bank Telescope, in West Virginia, the Parkes Radio Telescope in Australia, and the Automated Planet Finder of the Lick Observatory, in Mt Hamilton, California. The leading candidate would be a rotating neutron star with an extremely strong magnetic field, but astronomers say it's unlikely that such a star would be found in the type of dwarf galaxy that contains FRB 121102. The signals were so strong that the Breakthrough Listen team sent out an astronomer's telegram urging the scientific community to check it out, saying "these observations may indicate FRB 121102 is now in a heightened activity state, and follow-on observations are encouraged".

At the time, it was the first FRB to be discovered; and by 2015, it became the first FRB to be seen repeating.

Fast Radio Bursts (FRB) have puzzled astronomers ever since they were first detected about 10 years ago.

"On Saturday, August 26 at 13:51:44 UTC we initiated observations of the well-known repeating fast radio burst FRB 121102 using the Breakthrough Listen Digital Backend with the C-band receiver at the Green Bank Telescope", astrologists wrote in The Astronomer's Telegram.

Analysis by Gajjar and the Listen team revealed 15 new pulses from FRB 121102 and also confirmed that the source is in a newly active state. Around 400 TB of data was collected by Gajjar during the 5 hour long observation. But no such signal was ever observed again.

Analyzing the data, the team spotted the 15 spikes, with one reaching a frequency as high as 7 GHz, much higher than previous FRBs.

Scholz said that there could be reasons such as the signal being distorted between its source galaxy and Earth.

"The possible implications are two folds", Gajjar told me via email Tuesday. Now, a team of researchers from the Breakthrough Listen initiative has detected 15 more of these signals, and they all come from a single source: FRB 121102. That's unusual in of itself; FRBs tend to pop once, and that's it, at least in the ten years we've been hunting them. The randomness of their appearance in a so-short period convert them in such a mystery, even scientists believed at the beginning that they were just glitches in one of the radio telescopes, instead of real signals coming from the space and being heard by the instruments. FRBs are recorded by radio telescopes surveying the sky at radio wavelengths and are considered to last less than five milliseconds. At that time, earth was home to only single-celled organisms.