Are extra-terrestrials trying to contact us?

China’s FAST telescope was able to pinpoint location of galaxy from where mysterious FRBs were supposed to be emanating

Satyen Mohapatra
Satyen Mohapatra

Are we receiving signals from “extra-terrestrials” or is it just natural radio interference?

Whatever may be the truth. The global astronomy community is abuzz with the latest signals being received from space by the world’s largest (500 m diameter) single-dish radio telescope in China.

Initial reports (which were later withdrawn) coming from an official reputed Chinese daily of  “suspicious” and “trace signals” probably from an “alien civilization” being picked up by the radio telescope sent the social media into a tizzy.

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China’s FAST telescope was able to pinpoint the location of the galaxy from where the mysterious FRBs (Fast Radio Bursts) were supposed to be emanating. According to astronomers, FRB 20190520B is emanating from a dwarf galaxy about 3.3 billion light-years away from the Earth.

The detected FRB identified as 20190520B, is the world’s first and only persistently repeating fast radio burst (FRB) and was found on May 20, 2019.

Dr Ekta Sharma, a Post Doctoral Fellow at the National Astronomical Observatories of

China (NAOC) who works on the FAST, (presently in India)  said, “ It would have been earth-shaking and exciting for the human kind to have received a signal from alien civilization, but it probably needs further investigation before we can confirm if that is so. It is because no persistent repeating FRB has been found till date and it is also showing multiple weaker signals as well between bursts that we are still suspicious about their source, before dismissing it as ordinary radio interference. The presence of the signal in various direction may need to be checked because if it is an ordinary radio interference it would be found all around.”

 The FAST (Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope) is also known as the  “China Sky Eye”.

Nature magazine published the findings on June 9, 2022.

With power to release within one millisecond as much energy as that radiated by the sun in a whole year FRBs are one of the most powerful energy sources in the Universe. There are very few FRBs which are noticed to be active though several hundred FRBs have been reported globally.

“We detected three bursts within 10 seconds under one wave beam. Twenty seconds later, we detected one more burst when another wave beam swept it,”  scholar  Niu Chenhui who has written a paper on it.

Professor Zhang Tongjie, chief scientist of the China extraterrestrial civilization research team at Beijing Normal University’s astronomy department, said that, “the suspicious signal may also be some kind of radio interference, which needs to be further confirmed or ruled out,” he pointed out. “This may be a long process.”

 So far, less than 5% of all the hundreds of FRBs have been seen to repeat.

 The special traits of FRB 190520B is that it has highest ambient electron density of all FRBs and also that it has never turned off since its discovery, the only FRB known so far to be so persistently active.

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