‘Mysterious radio bursts in outer space discovered by alien-hunting artificial intelligence

Unusual and mysterious radio bursts” detected 3 billion light-years away, thanks to the artificial intelligence. (Credit: REUTERS/NASA/handout via Reuters )

E. T. may have tried to “phone home”, but new evidence suggests he may now try to reach us.

Unusual and mysterious radio bursts” detected 3 billion light years from Earth, thanks to the artificial intelligence program to Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI).

Researchers at SETI are using a machine learning algorithm to discover 72 new “fast radio bursts” (FRB) previously unknown. The FRBs originate from the galaxy-FRB 121102. When combined with the 21 FRBs found previously on Aug. 26, 2017, the total now comes to new 93 FRBs discovered.


“Not all discoveries come from new observations,” Pete, executive director of Breakthrough Initiatives, a SETI project, said in a statement. “In this case, the smart, original ideas applied to an existing dataset. It has advanced our knowledge of one of the most fascinating mysteries in astronomy.”

“This work is just the beginning of the use of these powerful methods for radio transients,” said Gerry Zhang in the statement. “We hope our success can inspire other efforts in the application of machine learning to the radio-astronomy.”

It is still unclear what is the cause of the FRBs, with SETI describing their source and the mechanism as a “mysterious.” Theories are “highly magnetized neutron stars, blasted by gas flows in the vicinity of a supermassive black hole, to the suggestion that the burst properties are consistent with the signatures of the technology developed by an advanced civilization.”

What makes the FRBs which are sourced from FRB 121102 is interesting is that these are usually one-time events. However, FRB 121102 has been unusually active since it was discovered in 2012, with the researchers call a “repeater.”

The researchers used the scientific program of Breakthrough Listen to to help go through 400 TB of data and find the 21 eruptions, which were all seen within an hour, “suggesting that the source alternated with periods of rest and frenzied activity.”

The history of FRBs

It is unknown how often FRBs actually are.

FRBs, which were first discovered in 2007, are relatively new to astronomers, and their origins are mysterious. According to ScienceAlert, some of them can generate as much energy as 500 million Suns in a few milliseconds.

Last month, a FRB that the Earth was struck almost 200 mhz lower than that of the other radio burst ever found.


The origin of the FRB discovered at the end of July may have resulted from a number of events, such as evaporating black holes and erupting neutron stars, according to the Nature.

However, astronomers, including Harvard’s, have also previously said they could not exclude the possibility that FRBs may result from advanced civilizations deep in space.

If the truth is indeed there, perhaps 3 billion light-years away from home.

Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia

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