Can strange impulses from another galaxy be sent by aliens?

From the very moment of their discovery, about 10 years ago, fast discrete radio pulses do not cease to amaze scientists. These intergalactic bursts of radio emissions already have a definite explanation, however, according to the new hypothesis, they can be of a technological nature. Some researchers suggest that these fast radio pulses can be used by some extraterrestrial civilization as a means to accelerate their spacecraft. Admittedly, the assumption is extremely controversial from many sides, but the idea is worth considering, if only because the impulses themselves are very unusual.

Certainly, when reading about the fact that radio pulses (FRB) can be created by some advanced space civilization for moving in the interstellar and intergalactic space, you might think that you are not on a near-scientific resource, but on some site about UFOs, where such a Infostraction. But the truth is that such an assumption was made by quite prominent scientists – Avi Loeb and Manasvi Lingham of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. But even in this case, before considering this as yet unexplained phenomenon from the point of view of artificial rather than natural astrophysical origin, it is necessary to collect much more evidence than is available now.

Let us briefly recall that for the first time fast discrete radio pulses (Fast Radio Bursts, FRB) were discovered by scientists of the Australian Parks Observatory in 2007. And to date, astronomers have recorded 17 episodes of these millisecond flares of radio emissions. The researchers tried to explain them from the point of view of a variety of cosmological phenomena: supermassive neutron stars, gamma radiation, stellar flares, stellar cataclysms, etc. However, their true source still could not be singled out by anyone. The only thing scientists are sure of is that FRB signals come to us from outside our galaxy, overcoming the distance of several billion light years.

In the absence of a convincing theory of their origin, Loeb and Lingham proposed (and not without reason) that some extraterrestrial civilizations could be involved in the creation of these radio bursts. This idea was prompted by the scientists as to how strange these FRB signals are. First of all, they are incredibly hot: their brightness temperature is 1037 (the brightness temperature is not quite the temperature in the usual sense.) As a rule, the intensity of the microwave radiation from a stellar object, like the same pulsar, is determined with the help of this value.


A composite image of FRB 121102, originating in a dim and very distant galaxy located about 3 billion light-years from us

“To create such a level of observed radiation, it is necessary to have an object with a very hot surface,” Loeb comments.

“We do not know any astronomical object that can generate such a level of radio emission with a level of brightness that is tens of billions times greater than the level of brightness of the same powerful pulsars known to us.”

Another mystery of FRB signals is related to their recurring nature, which, however, does not have any definite level of predictability. Scientists believe that this contradicts the effects that could be expected from some cataclysmic event like a stellar collapse, in which a powerful explosion would create a high level of brightness temperature. In addition, the observed spectrum of FRB signals is concentrated in a certain range, which would not be expected from the same pulsars.

“All these leads lead to an opinion about their artificial origin,” says Loeb.

In their work, the scientists also considered the probability of creating these distant pulses by some very powerful extraterrestrial transmitting device. Based on this idea, Loeb and Lingham considered the theoretical possibility of creating such a device, and also suggested the potential for its use. Researchers came to the conclusion that if such a device operated on the basis of solar energy, then the area of ​​the object that would collect and generate the necessary energy from the light would have to be twice the size of our Earth. Such an area may have some huge planet or a large cosmic megastructure like Dyson’s hypothetical sphere.

To protect against the destruction of such a structure under the influence of unbearable temperatures, most likely, it would be necessary to use a certain system of liquid cooling. Such a construct of the translator, in the opinion of scientists, would be far beyond our technological capabilities, but nevertheless it would not violate the laws of physics known to us, which is already good in itself.

As for the purposes for which an extraterrestrial civilization could build such a device, then, according to scientists, it could be used as an interstellar or even intergalactic signal system that informs other reasonable forms of life about the existence of another civilization.

“One can imagine a radiator that creates directional radio waves and can be used as a kind of light sail. Similar to the usual sail, which is directed by the wind, the light sail receives the desired impulse for movement from the energy of light, theoretically allowing it to accelerate to light speed, “continues Loeb.

To be able to create the necessary momentum and accelerate the light sail, such a radiator must have incredible power. It is possible that the level of this power is so great that it will be enough to accelerate objects weighing several million tons (imagine 20 huge cruise liners as an example). According to Manasvi Lingram, this radiator can send huge spacecraft with passengers to the interstellar or even intergalactic journey.

Interestingly, our civilization also plans in the near future the use of light sails for interstellar flights, though at a much less large scale. Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and Russian billionaire Yuri Milner consider this an excellent idea and therefore decided last year to invest $ 100 million in the Breakthrough Starshot project. And earlier this year, scientists from the Max Planck Institute considered the possibility of using the apparatus on a solar sail to study Alpha Centauri, which is the closest star system to us.

That is, scientists lead to the fact that FRB-flashes, which we catch on Earth, can be a “leak” or spurious emission of an alien system that creates these impulses for the acceleration of extraterrestrial spacecraft.

“Radio beams dissect the different corners of our sky, because their source changes its location relative to us,” explains Loeb.

“This may be due to the peculiarity of the rotation of the object generating this energy, or with the rotation itself of the star or the entire galaxy as a whole, where this source is located. From time to time the rays go straight to the Earth and at the same time confuse our astronomers. ”

Whatever it was, but such an explanation was enough for the work of Loeb and Lingham to be accepted for publication in the scientific journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.

It is clear that it is necessary to conduct much more work and gather more convincing evidence. And yet many scientists agree that these signals are very strange. For example, the director of the SETI Research Institute, Andrew Simeon, points out that these FRB signals, like nothing else, make scientists consider the most diverse and sometimes even fantastic and insane ideas about their source. Simeon, who did not participate in the study discussed today, supports the work of Harvard astronomers, even if it has a somewhat unconventional approach.

“We can not exclude the possibility that anomalous signals, like these fast radio pulses, can be created by extraterrestrial technology. And although this is unlikely, this idea should still be one of the opportunities that should not be immediately discarded, “Simeon says.

“The work of Lingram and Loeb offers an intriguing idea of ​​a special technology beyond our understanding of traditional forms of communication or radar systems (directional energy transmission systems) capable of producing short-term radio pulses. And although this option is very controversial in itself, it represents an excellent example of the fact that in such discussions we should be open to absolutely any suggestions and assumptions, especially when it comes to finding potential signals of extraterrestrial civilizations. ”

Despite this remark of Simeon, the new hypothesis should not be considered more than another suggestion, trying to explain the nature of strange radio pulses, so it will be foolish to draw any conclusions now. Now generally there is a tendency – both in the media and among the public – to draw conclusions ahead of time. As one of the last examples, we can consider the very strange behavior of the star KIC 8462852, all the information about which in one way or another was reduced to theories about aliens, rather than to something more scientific and valid from the point of view of astrophysics.

Loeb agrees that his hypothesis may sound too fantastic, however, according to the scientist, it should not be ruled out simply because it may sound too fanciful for someone.

“One of the most amazing aspects of doing science is that everyone can exclude one or another possibility only after providing enough convincing evidence for a more appropriate idea,” says Loeb.

“Science has many examples, showing the irrationality of excluding the most diverse opportunities only on the basis of someone’s prejudices, since in the end it always leads to stagnation, and not progress. Even if it seems to me that on the basis of the collected data it is possible to deduce the assumption of an artificial source of FRB signals, I would have easily accepted another explanation of this phenomenon if I had been provided with more accurate data. Science is the experience of knowledge. We find out how nature works, rejecting the wrong variants in the first place, taking into account the observations, and not according to our prejudices. “