A Canadian Radio Telescope Has Been Receiving Mysterious Signals From Across the Universe Since July
It lasts just milliseconds, but it could be a turning point in space research. Since July, Canada’s CHIME Telescope has received Fast Radio Bursts (FRB) from across the universe. It may be the first time Earth has received a signal from an alien civilization — or the cry of a dying star.
The Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment in British Columbia began operations in 2017, with the overarching goal of collecting data about dark energy, the mysterious force that comprises 70% of the universe. More specifically, the journal Nature describes CHIME’s mission as “[mapping] the density of interstellar hydrogen across the Universe in the epoch between 10 billion and 8 billion years ago.” Part of the data collected includes FRB. Since the first transmission in July, many more FRB have been received by the CHIME telescope, but researchers can’t say where they’re coming from or what might be sending them.
Deep in the rural Chinese Guizhou Province lies the largest radio telescope on the planet. The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) is the size of 30 football fields, and according to China Daily, is sensitive enough to hear a cell phone conversation on the Moon. After only a year of trial operations, FAST has found two pulsars in the Milky Way. FAST’s initial success is a promising preview of future discoveries and is even more impressive considering that China struggled to find scientists to operate it. FAST owes its initial success to chief scientist Nan Rendong, who died of lung cancer in September 2017 after spending 22 years planning and building humanity’s largest ear to the Universe.
What Is FAST Searching For In Space?
FAST will study pulsars, radio wave sources, neutral hydrogen and interstellar molecules to help astronomers create a more detailed map of the Universe, as well as a better understanding of interstellar chemistry. It also is tasked with listening for signals from other intelligent life, as the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has done for more than three decades. So far, however, SETI has not found anything, which raises doubts about whether humanity has neighbors in space.
Taking a picture of a black hole focuses less on its core than its edges, and the light and debris surrounding it. Scientists have long believed that black holes are large, extremely strong gravitational bodies that prevent even light from escaping. A series of special telescopes were placed across the globe to capture giant amounts of data about a black hole in our own galaxy. Researchers now begin to process this information, hoping to create the first photograph of a black hole by 2018.
After last week’s headline-making announcement of the Trappist-1 star discovery, Second Nexus reached out to NASA scientist Dr. Tiffany Meshkat for a perspective of that breakthrough, and what it means for our place in the universe.
By Dr. Tiffany Meshkat, exoplanet scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
The world’s largest radio telescope is now operational. China hopes to use it to achieve “major advances and breakthroughs at the frontier of science,” said China’s President Xi Jinping. In particular, the Chinese hope to learn more about how galaxies evolve and perhaps find definitive proof of extraterrestrial life.
Researchers with the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Program (SETI) are investigating signal spikes emitting from a star in the constellation Hercules. The star, an estimated 6.3 billion years old, is 95 light years from Earth––about 500 trillion miles away. "We are talking about a message that left its star in 1920 and finally arrived in Russia in 2015," said Doug Vakoch, Ph.D., who works with METI International, a group that focuses on messaging extraterrestrial intelligence.