Radio Signals Hit Earth Every 16 Days From 500 Million Light Years Away

by : Lucy Connolly on : 09 Feb 2020 13:46
Radio Signals Hit Earth Every 16 Days From 500 Million Light Years AwayRadio Signals Hit Earth Every 16 Days From 500 Million Light Years AwayPixabay

Scientists are baffled by a mysterious object 500 million light years away that is transmitting signals that hit Earth every 16 days.

Although scientists do not know what is causing the phenomenon, they are recognising it as the first reliable pattern of fast radio bursts in deep space.

Such signals have been a source of confusion for scientists since they were first discovered in 2007, as up until now, none of the fast radio bursts studied had exhibited any sort of steady tempo.

satellite earthsatellite earthPixabay

This new phenomenon, however, changes all of this as it emits a specific pattern, blasting out around one to two radio bursts per hour for four days and then going silent for just over 12 days. The cycle then repeats on the 16th day, suggesting something is controlling them.

Duncan Lorimer, an astrophysicist at West Virginia University in Morgantown and co-discoverer of the first fast radio burst, said, as per Science News:

This is very significant. It’s potentially going to take us in an interesting direction to get to the bottom of these repeaters.


The bursts were recently traced to a spiral galaxy nearly 500 million light years away from Earth, when astrophysicists discovered the pattern using data from the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment – or CHIME – radio telescope in British Columbia.

chime radio telescope in British Columbiachime radio telescope in British ColumbiaWikimedia

One possible explanation for the way this particular fast radio burst is repeating its cycle could be that it’s orbiting something else, such as a star or a black hole. In that case, the 16-day cycle might reveal how often the star or black hole is pointed towards the Earth.

Alternatively, stellar winds from a companion might periodically boost or block the radio pulses, which might also explain why not every 16-day cycle produces bursts.


Either explanation implies that repeating fast radio bursts might come paired with something else, although Dongzi Li – an astrophysicist at the University of Toronto – and colleagues aren’t ready to rule out stand-alone objects.

universe spaceuniverse spacePixabay

While the team of scientists might not know exactly what is causing the fast radio bursts, they are ruling certain possibilities out – i.e. aliens.

Leon Oostrum at the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy told New Scientist, as per The Sun:


If it were an alien beacon I would think it would emit more quickly, because a 16-day period is not efficient for communication. Imagine getting one signal every 16 days – it would take forever to get a message.

So that’s a relief, at least.

milky way spacemilky way spacePixabay

Future scans of the spiral galaxy might help astronomers come closer to solving this mystery, narrowing down the possible explanations for the repeated fast radio bursts.


Let’s hope that’s the case!

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Lucy Connolly

A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).

Topics: Science, Deep Space, Earth, Radio Signals, Space


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