A bizarre split-second barrage of radio waves has hit the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. This is highly significant because it's the first time these "fast radio bursts" have been observed anywhere else besides the Parkes radio telescope in Australia.
That means that the Parkes evidence has been corroborated by a second source and the existence of these radio waves isn't just a weird anomaly in Australia. But with this discovery, the mystery is greater, not less.
Scientists aren't sure what's causing the phenomenon. According to the McGill Reporter:
“Our result is important because it eliminates any doubt that these radio bursts are truly of cosmic origin,” said Victoria Kaspi, an astrophysics professor at McGill and Principal Investigator for the pulsar-survey project that detected this fast radio burst. “The radio waves show every sign of having come from far outside our galaxy – a really exciting prospect.”
Exactly what may be causing such radio bursts represents a major new enigma for astrophysicists. Possibilities include a range of exotic astrophysical objects, such as evaporating black holes, mergers of neutron stars, or flares from magnetars – a type of neutron star with extremely powerful magnetic fields.
It's clear that these signals are coming from a very long way away. Is there a chance that they're messages from a distant planet? That's what I love about astronomy! What do you think the meaning of these fast radio bursts is?