CHIME telescope under night sky with stars above

Scientists found a mysterious radio signal in space that bursts out in a heartbeat-like pattern and before you ask, no, it’s not aliens. At least that’s what they’re telling us.

Using the CHIME (Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment) radio telescope, astronomers noticed a strange FRB, or radio burst, from a far-off galaxy billions of light-years from Earth. The signal lasted up to three seconds, which is exceptionally long for an FRB. The team also detected “bursts of radio waves that repeat every 0.2 seconds in a clear periodic pattern, similar to a beating heart,” according to a press release from MIT.

“It was unusual,” said Daniele Michilli, a postdoctoral researcher at MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, in the press release. “Not only was it very long, lasting about three seconds, but there were periodic peaks that were remarkably precise, emitting every fraction of a second — boom, boom, boom — like a heartbeat. This is the first time the signal itself is periodic.”

But again, not aliens reaching out to us. Apparently. The signal, scientists think, is probably coming from a type of neutron star.

“There are not many things in the universe that emit strictly periodic signals,” said Michilli, part of the team that discovered the FRB, to MIT. “Examples that we know of in our own galaxy are radio pulsars and magnetars, which rotate and produce a beamed emission similar to a lighthouse. And we think this new signal could be a magnetar or pulsar on steroids.”

Boo. Just once could it please be aliens? But as Miriam Kramer once wrote at Mashable, “It’s not aliens. It’s never aliens. Stop saying it’s aliens.


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