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SETI received 35 "fast radio bursts" from space that may be signs of alien life

The SETI Institute in California has detected an extraordinary series of fast radio bursts (FRBs) – intense and brief pulses of radio waves from a distant source in space. These mysterious bursts, 35 in total, were observed by the Allen Telescope Array (ATA) and exhibited a unique ‘cosmic slide-whistle’ effect due to a noticeable drop in the center frequency. 

FRBs, first discovered in 2007, have long puzzled scientists. These phenomena are thought to emanate from dying stars, known as magnetars, in distant galaxies. 

Magnetars possess an extremely powerful magnetic field, which is hypothesized to be capable of emitting radio waves across space. While most FRBs appear to be singular events, a small percentage have been observed to repeat, some even following a regular pattern.

Fast radio burst (FRB) 20220912A

The recent discovery made by the SETI Institute focuses on a specific repeating fast radio burst, labeled FRB 20220912A, situated in a galaxy approximately one billion light-years from Earth. 

Unlike typical fast radio bursts that last for just milliseconds and vanish, FRB 20220912A was noted for its repetitive nature, occurring 35 times over two months. This particular FRB allowed researchers to confirm existing theories about these bursts, as well as identify new, previously unseen patterns.

“This work is exciting because it provides both confirmation of known FRB properties and the discovery of some new ones,” said lead author Sofia Sheikh, a postdoctoral fellow at SETI. “We’re narrowing down the source of FRBs, for example, to extreme objects such as magnetars, but no existing model can explain all of the properties that have been observed so far.”

The study of FRB 20220912A revealed that there was no discernible pattern in the timing or interval of the energy releases. When the frequency drop of the bursts was converted into sound, it resembled the notes of a whistle.

Deep space explorers

Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has proposed a more speculative theory regarding FRBs. In 2017, he suggested that these signals could be indicative of deep-space explorers billions of light-years away from Earth. 

According to Loeb, leakage from the transmitters of these explorers could result in the brief flashes detected on Earth, influenced by the movement of the probe, its host planet, its star, and the galaxy relative to Earth. “An artificial origin is worth contemplating and checking,” Loeb said.

This discovery opens new avenues for understanding these enigmatic signals and their origins, potentially shedding light on the dynamics of distant galaxies and the universe at large.

More about fast radio bursts (FRBs)

Fast radio bursts (FRBs) are one of the most intriguing mysteries in astronomy. These are extremely brief flashes of radio waves coming from space, lasting just a few milliseconds. Despite their short duration, they are incredibly powerful, releasing as much energy in a millisecond as the Sun does in nearly a century.


The origin of FRBs is still largely unknown, making them a hot topic of research. Hundreds have been detected, some repeating and others appearing just once. The repeaters have enabled astronomers to trace them back to their galaxies, providing vital clues about their nature.

Extraordinary energy

FRBs can come from billions of light-years away, indicating that the phenomena causing them are extraordinarily energetic. Several theories have been proposed regarding their origins, ranging from the mysterious – like black holes and neutron stars – to more speculative ideas like alien technology.

Valuable insights

Interestingly, FRBs are helping scientists learn more about the universe. As these bursts travel through space, they pass through intergalactic material, which can be studied based on the way it affects the radio waves. This has opened a new window for understanding the vast, unseen material in our universe.


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