E.T. Maybe I tried calling home, but new evidence suggests that he might try to reach us now.

Unusual and "mysterious radio bursts" have been discovered 3 billion light-years from Earth thanks to a program of artificial intelligence in search of extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI).

SETI researchers used a machine learning algorithm to discover 72 new "Fast Radio Bursts" (FRB) that had not previously been identified. The FRBs come from the galaxy FRB 121102. Along with the 21 FRBs previously found on August 26, 2017, the total now comes to a new 93 FRBs that were discovered.


"Not all discoveries come from new observations," said Pete Worden, executive director of Breakthrough Initiatives, a SETI project, in a statement. "In this case, it was an intelligent, original thinking applied to an existing dataset that has broadened our knowledge of one of the most fascinating secrets of astronomy."

"This work is just the beginning to use these powerful methods to find radio transients," said Gerry Zhang in the statement. "We hope that our success will stimulate other serious efforts in the application of machine learning to radio astronomy."

It is still unclear what caused the FRBs, with SETI calling their source and mechanism "mysterious". Theories include "highly magnetized neutron stars irradiated by gas streams near a supermassive black hole to suggest that the burst properties match the signatures of technology developed by advanced civilization."

What makes the FRBs emanating from FRB 121102 interesting is that they are usually one-off events. However, FRB 121102 has been unusually active since its discovery in 2012 and has been described by researchers as a "repeater".

Researchers used the Breakthrough Listening scientific program to help walk through 400 TB of data and find the 21 outbreaks that were all observed within an hour, "suggesting that the source switches between periods of rest and raging activity . "

History of FRBs

It is not known how common FRBs are.

FRBs, first discovered in 2007, are relatively new to astronomers and their origins are mysterious. According to ScienceAlert, some of them can generate as much energy as 500 million suns in just a few milliseconds.

Last month, an FRB that hit Earth was nearly 200 megahertz lower than any other radio transmitter ever discovered.


The origin of the FRB, which was discovered in late July, can be traced back to a series of events, such as black hole evaporation and neutron star bursting, Nature said.

However, astronomers, including those from Harvard, have previously said that they can not rule out that FRBs come from advanced civilizations that are deep in space.

If the truth is actually out there, it could only be 3 billion light-years from home.

Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia


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