NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – In a galaxy far, far away – like, 500 million light-years away – something big is happening, and scientists on Earth can detect it.
“Well, you sort of think about ET and stuff like that,” said Sheila Mortimer to CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock about the news from beyond our solar system.
“I can’t think of a mystery that we’ve had this enticing in a long time,” said Tim Paglione, professor of physics and astronomy at CUNY York College.
Paglione says a recent Journal article that hones in on Fast Radio Bursts, or FRBs, is causing a lot of buzz. It’s the closest instance such a phenomenon has ever been detected this close to Earth.
“What we see observationally is a bright very short burst of radio emission from someplace, from something,” he said.
Paglione pinpoints their origin at the trailing edge of a spiral arm of our galaxy.
What’s most exciting about this signal from outer space is that it repeats itself every 16 days.
“There used to be this one-off, a burst then you’d never see it again, so that made it even more mysterious,” said Paglione.
Scientists wondered if what they witnessed was even real, but picking up on the pattern changes that observation.
“They were real, we could determine a lot better where they were,” said Paglione.
So what wild ideas were put out there as the cause?
“There’s alien spacecraft out there, and they kick off the afterburners?” he said. “Is that what we’re seeing?”
In reality, Paglione says the most likely culprit is what’s called a magnetar: The remains of a massive star that explodes and collapses in upon itself.
“You’ve gone from something 10 times bigger than the sun, which is already 100 times bigger than the Earth, and compressed it to the size of Queens,” said Paglione.
It could be the reason for those repeated radio signals from outer space.