Short Cosmic Radio Burst Detected, But Don’t Get Too Excited

Astronomers in Australia recently detected a short, 5 millisecond, burst of radio waves from outer space, whose original is as yet, unclear. The most interesting part, from an scientific perspective, is that it was the first time astronomers have ever detected such a burst of radio waves in real time. Previously it’s always been after the fact, when the data from an observation run was analyzed.

But it would appear unlikely that the signal was artificially generated:

However, in this case, there is substantial reason to believe that it’s not a response to SETI. According to data on this event gathered from 12 telescopes around the world the [fast radio burst] originated 5.5 billion light years from Earth. That means that the event which caused the signal happened about 900 million years before our solar system began to form.

Even if it were found to be a communication from an intelligent alien species, by the time we could get a signal back to the source our sun would have burned out.

Such discoveries are important, even if they do turn out to be the result of natural causes. They will help to eliminate false positives, and more important, they tell us more about the Universe we live in.

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2 thoughts on “Short Cosmic Radio Burst Detected, But Don’t Get Too Excited

  1. The 5.5 billion light year estimate is based on the dispersion metric with assumed natural source. This does not apply if considering that the source could be artificial; distance could be arbitrary.

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