Repeating Fast Radio Bursts 2.5 Billion Light-Years
from Earth — Alien Intelligence?
© 2017 by Linda Moulton Howe
“Fast radio bursts are exceedingly bright given their short duration and origin at great distances, and we haven't identified a possible natural source with any confidence.
An artificial origin of fast radio bursts is worth contemplating and checking.”
- Avi Loeb, Ph.D., Chair, Astronomy Dept., Harvard Univ., Cambridge, MA.
Illustration of a hypothetical alien intelligence's large transport
sail powered by a radio beam (red) generated from the surface of an
Earth-sized planet 1 to 3 billion light-years from Earth. Credit:
M. Weiss/Center for Astrophysics, Harvard Univ.
March 30, 2017 Cambridge, Massachusetts - What has been making very powerful and rapid radio bursts the past ten years from 2.5 billion light-years from Earth? The first recorded fast radio burst was in 2007 by the Parkes radio telescope in Australia. The power of that radio burst was 500 million times the power of our solar system's sun and lasted only 5 milliseconds. It might have been some astronomical body that blew up — except that five years later on November 2, 2012, in the same place there were two more repeating bursts now known as “FRB 121102.” Since then there have been fifteen more recorded by Earth scientists to date for a total of eighteen recorded mysterious fast radio bursts coming from the same spot in the cosmic sky.
Visible-light image of the host dwarf galaxy circled in red in the blown up inset is the source
of repeating fast radio bursts since November 2, 2007, now called "FRB 121102." That dim
dwarf galaxy is 2.5 billion light-years from Earth. Image via National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Socorro, New Mexico, and Gemini Observatory/AURA/NSF/NRC.
The globally distributed dishes of the European VLBI Network are linked with each other
and the 305-meter William E. Gordon Telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
Together they have localized FRB 121102's exact position within it's host dwarf galaxy 2.5 billion
light-years from Earth in the Auriga Constellation. Illustration by Danielle Futselaar wwwartsource.nl.
9 Fast Radio Bursts Were Recorded in 2016
Of the total 18 recorded fast radio bursts so far, 9 were recorded over a 6-month time period last year in 2016, at the Very Large Array (VLA) in Datil, New Mexico, and the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico.
Datil, New Mexico's Very Large Array (VLA) of radio telescopes are helping to
investigate the source of the mysterious, repeating, powerful fast radio bursts recorded
between 2007 and 2016 from the same dwarf galaxy 2.5 billion light-years
from Earth. Image by Roger Ressmeyer, Getty Images.
Cornell University astronomer Shami Chatterjee, Ph.D., described what had been learned so far about the repeating “fast radio bursts” in the January 4, 2017, journal Nature. See Websites below. Dr. Chatterjee says about the nine fast radio bursts over the 6-month period in 2016, “We definitely know, for this one case anyway, that the radio burst is not cataclysmic,” meaning whatever has been emitting the repeating bursts is not being destroyed by them.
Are Fast Radio Bursts Powering Alien Cargo Ships?
Phys.org Astrophysical Journal, March 9, 2017. See Websites below.
Whatever the source is has become the subject of intense speculation by astrophysicists and astronomers. In the March 9, 2017, Astrophysical Journal Letters, the Chair of Harvard University's Astronomy Dept. and Director of Harvard's Institute for Theory and Computation and the Black Hole Initiative, proposed with his Harvard co-author Manasvi Lingam that fast radio bursts could be interstellar light sails pushing payloads up to a million tons each, “large enough to carry living passengers across interstellar or even intergalactic distances.”
Why would we see such intense, rapid radio bursts on Earth? The Harvard University scientists theorize that to power a light sail near the speed of light would demand a transmitter the size of Earth beaming radio waves with a wavelength of tens of centimeters. The sail has to be made of material that reflects light well in radio wave frequencies. We humans are already testing the concept of using infrared laser photons to push light sails toward the speed of light in the Starshot Project. Prof. Avi Loeb at Harvard is chairman of the Breakthrough Starshot Adivsory Committee. Starshot was first funded one year ago with $100 million on April 12, 2016, by Russian venture capitalist and physicist Yuri Milner.
See Earthfiles: • 04/05/2016 - “Interstellar Travel with Laser Light Propulsion”
Illustration of laser array beaming photons at small, white, unmanned
Starshot "wafer craft" to accelerate up to 30% the speed of light, opening up
the possibility of interstellar research to nearby stars such as a 18-year-trip to the
nearest star Alpha Centauri and the possibly Earth-like planet Alpha Proxima.. Graphic by
Experimental Cosmology Group at the Univ. of California – Santa Barbara.
Recently I asked Prof. Loeb about his Astrophysical Journal paper that raises the possibility that the repeating fast radio bursts could be light sail technology powering large extraterrestrial cargo craft.
Avi Loeb, Ph.D., Chair, Department of Astronomy and Director of the
Institute for Theory and Computation and Black Hole Initiative at the Harvard
Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Avi Loeb, Ph.D., Chair, Astronomy Dept.; Director, Institute for Theory and Computation and Black Hole Initiative, Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Massachusetts: “We don't have a clue as to what the nature of this force is. But the importance of the discovery that was reported in Nature in January 2017 is that for the first time we were able to pin down the distance to those forces. So the fast radio bursts that were looked at and reported about in the Nature paper is one that repeats. And the fact that it repeats allowed us to look at it again and again and eventually localize it.
And once it was localized, the astronomers that did the work realized that the galaxy is very far away. [More than] a billion light years away. Very far. So that means that these forces, if they're all resembling the one that was localized, they originate from the edge of the universe. And that poses a major challenge because we, nevertheless, are able to see a very bright radio flash, and that means the source must be very powerful. You would need a temperature that is 10 to the power of 37 degrees for that surface.
THAT'S A NUMBER WITH 37 ZEROES.
37 zeroes! And that is an unusually bright source. And that's one reason that I was led to consider the possibility of an artificial origin. The other thing is that our civilization is now entering to develop the technology that would allow us to launch spacecraft close to the speed of light.
And I'm actually involved in that project called Starshot where we're aiming to use a very powerful beam of radiation, a laser. Now, you focus it on a sail, and the sail is being pushed by the light and pushed at a fifth of the speed of light, and launch it in the direction of the nearest star such that it will be equipped with a camera and a navigation device, and would send photographs of the planet around the nearest star that may have life on it.
Nearest Star System to Earth Is
Alpha Centauri and Proxima Centauri
Alpha Centauri is the closest star system to our Earth solar system at 4.37 light-years from our Sun. Alpha Centauri is paired with Alpha Centauri B and a small, faint red dwarf, Alpha Centauri C, also named Proxima Centauri, gravitationally bound to the other two. Proxima Centauri is at the slightly smaller distance of 4.24 light-years from our Sun. Orbiting Proxima Centauri is an Earth-sized exoplanet in the habitable zone called Proxima b that will likely be a destination of one of the first Starshot launches of small, light-weight "wafer craft" currently being developed for a flyby mission at 25% to 30% the speed of light by the Breakthrough Starshot project.
See Websites below.
THAT IS ALPHA CENTAURI AND PROXIMA (CENTAURI). I DID AN INTERVIEW IN 2016 WITH ONE OF THE PHYSICISTS ALSO INVOLVED IN STARSHOT. IF I UNDERSTOOD CORRECTLY, THEY WOULD LIKE, IN A DECADE FROM 2017 TO 2027, TO TRY LAUNCHING ONE OF THESE (LIGHT-WEIGHT) WAFER CRAFT, EVEN IF IT'S 25- 30 PERCENT THE SPEED OF LIGHT. THEY'RE ASSUMING THAT THEY WOULD KEEP GETTING THE SPEED UP, AND THAT EVENTUALLY, IF IT TOOK 18 YEARS TO GET TO ALPHA CENTAURI, THEY MIGHT ACTUALLY HAVE LAUNCHED (OTHER) CRAFT THAT COULD BE GOING NEAR THE SPEED OF LIGHT THAT WOULD BYPASS THE FIRST LAUNCHES IN THIS DECADE.
Yes. I shouldn't say 'they' because I'm actually chairing the advisory committee for that Starshot project. But the importance of that involvement is that it inspired me to consider the question — if our civilization is contemplating doing that Starshot, there might be another advanced technological civilization that already mastered this technology and went far ahead. So now they're actually launching much bigger cargos than Starshot is aiming to launch.
Small, smart, "wafer-craft" technology would be only 4 inches in diameter and about
100 microns thick protected by the red and white shield attached to a 1-meter-diameter
reflector that will be pushed toward light speed by the force of infrared photons emitted from a laser array, perhaps built on Earth or on the moon. Illustration by Experimental Cosmology Group, UCSB.
In Starshot, we're talking about a gram-scale payload that includes electronics, but a more ambitious project might involve very massive spacecraft. And the question is: what would it look like from a distance? There would be a beam of radiation that is aimed at a sail, but a fraction of that light would leak beyond the boundaries of the sail. An observer that happened to be located just behind the sail would see it as a rapid flash of light because the beam would sweep across the sky as the source is moving and we are moving as well.
And so one would expect a flash of light. The question is: what type of light? Would it be visible light? Infrared light like we are planning to use for Starshot? And in this paper that we just wrote, we were trying to interpret the fast radio bursts in the context of another civilization beaming in our direction.
Earth-Size Radiowave Beam Focused
On Huge “Light Sail” to Power Interstellar Cargo Craft?
Now, if one is asking what kind of power is necessary for the source to appear the way fast radio bursts do, we find that the amount of power that you need is similar to that intercepted by the Earth from sunlight. So you can imagine a beamer that collects its power from a planet like the Earth and has roughly the size of the Earth, beaming radiation on a sail.
An artist’s illustration of a huge light-sail powered by a radio beam (red) generated from a planetary surface as big as our Earth. The leakage from such radiowave beams as they sweep across the sky
would appear as Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs), similar to the mysterious FRBs recorded
on Earth since 2007 at distances of 2.6 billion light-years. Illustration by M. Weiss/CfA.
DO I UNDERSTAND THAT YOU ARE HYPOTHESIZING THAT THE SIZE OF THE EMITTER OF THE ENERGY IS AS LARGE AS OUR EARTH?
Yes. That's what you need in order to generate this beam that it would appear like a fast radio burst. What you need in order to power these fast radio bursts is using up a significant fraction of the energy that the star provides on the surface of the planet. And this may sound like a lot, but our civilization developed technology for a hundred or two hundred years, but you can imagine other civilizations having a billion years to work on that.
AND YOU MEAN ELECTROMAGNETIC FREQUENCIES?
SO YOU ARE HYPOTHESIZING THAT WHAT WE COULD DO IS USE THE RADIO FREQUENCY AND PUSH IT AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT.
Yes. The radio waves are just light with a wavelength of tens of centimeters. They are no different than visible light. The only difference is the (radio) wavelength is much longer by a factor of 10,000 or so. We're talking about light, just with different wavelengths.
Calculating Best Wavelength for Light Speed Travel
“If you require 1G as the maximum acceleration for these extraterrestrials
because they live also on a planet like the Earth, and you imagine that you want
to reach a fraction of the speed of light, and you use a beamer as big as a planet like the Earth, you end up with radio waves being the best wavelength to use.”
- Avi Loeb, Ph.D., Chair, Astronomy Dept., Harvard Univ., Cambridge, MA.
It turns out that if you want to get close to the speed of light, and you limit the acceleration of the spacecraft to roughly 1G — similar to the acceleration on the surface of a planet like the Earth — and if you require 1G as the maximum acceleration for these extraterrestrials because they live also on a planet like the Earth, and you imagine that you want to reach a fraction of the speed of light, and you use a beamer as big as a planet like the Earth, — then you end up with radio waves being the best wavelength to use. That's what we show in our paper. And the beamer is the size of the Earth. These three numbers — the speed of light for the terminal speed, the acceleration being limited by 1G, and the size of the beamer — combining these three tells you what is the optimal wavelength to use.
It's radio waves. And that is the optimal waveband to use if you want to reach close to the speed of light with an acceleration of 1G. If, on the other hand, you are launching just electronics like we are doing in Starshot, there you don't limit acceleration to 1G. There the acceleration reaches 60,000 G because the electronics can tolerate it. And in that case, the optimal wavelength is infrared. One micron. That's why we're using a laser there. But if you limit the acceleration to 1G because you have living things that cannot tolerate higher accelerations, then radio waves is better. In our paper, we just put forward the possibility that these signals are artificial. I feel that putting this possibility of an artificial origin on the table would serve a good purpose because future can test it.
At Least 100 Billion Galaxies
In This Universe Filled with Trillions of Planets
October 13, 2016: "Hubble Reveals Observable Universe Contains 10 Times More Galaxies
Than Previously Thought," headline from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Maryland.
IT SEEMS PROBABLE THAT IN A 13.8 BILLION LIGHT YEAR UNIVERSE WITH TRILLIONS OF GALAXIES AND PLANETS THAT THE LIKELIHOOD OF INTELLIGENT LIFE IS HIGHLY MORE PROBABLE THAN NOT.
Yes. I would agree with that. I don't think we are special, and I don't think we're at the center of the biological universe. I think primitive life is very likely to exist elsewhere, and potentially also intelligent life.
YEAH, I WOULD SAY SO, TOO. WHAT IN YOUR OWN MIND SWAYS YOU TO THE CONCEPT THAT THESE RAPID BURSTS ARE SOME SORT OF VERY ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY THAT IS MOVING MASSIVE CARGOS AND OTHER LIFEFORMS?
I was inspired by my involvement in Starshot, lifting payloads with light. I thought it might be interesting to consider the possibility that some of the signals we observe in the sky might be related to similar technologies. But more importantly, these fast radio bursts have very extreme properties. They're extremely bright, much more so than any other source we know. They're very brief, just a thousandth of a second. They have emission that is concentrated around a preferred frequency, while for example, pulsars associated with neutron stars, they have a very broad range of frequencies at which they emit. And moreover, these fast radio bursts, at least one of them keeps repeating in an irregular fashion. It's not repeating periodically like pulsars do. There are some months where there's no repetition, and then over a single day there are ten repetitions. So this irregularity in the repetition, and the fact that it's not a cataclysmic event, it's not a one-time event, makes them quite unusual. They might be artificial in origin.
AND THAT IF YOU THEN EXTEND FURTHER TO YOUR HYPOTHESIS THAT THIS WOULD BE RELATED TO SOME SORT OF LAUNCHES IN THIS BILLION LIGHT YEARS FROM US TO CARGO TRANSPORT, AND THAT TRANSPORTATION WOULD TAKE PLACE IN SOME SORT OF CYCLE.
Yes. That is the conjecture.
WE ARE TALKING IN MARCH OF 2017. WHAT DO YOU ENVISION WILL BE THE TIMELINE FOR TESTING THE HYPOTHESIS THAT YOU'RE PRESENTING?
It could be a matter of months, or possibly longer, where we will gather enough data to convince us whether the sources are natural or artificial. For example, if we find emission at other wavebands, not just in the radio, that could provide us with more clues about the nature of the source, or if we get more data in the radio, and we find some peculiar patterns in the frequencies that are being used, for example. The more peculiarities we find, the more it will drive the discussion in the direction of an artificial origin.”
• 01/05/2017 - “Fast Radio Bursts” of Intense Radiation from Galaxy Far, Far Away”
• 01/27/17 - “Are Color-Modulated Rapid Pulses from 234 Stars E.T. Signals?”
• 04/05/2016 - “Interstellar Travel with Laser Light Propulsion”
• 10/28/15 - “Strangest Star Light Pattern in Milky Way Galaxy — Are There Megastructures Orbiting KIC 8462852?”
• 04/22/2006 — Cassiopeia A Is Not Dying Peacefully. Is It A Rare Magnetar?
• 03/03/2005 — What Made Five Strong Radio Bursts At the Center of Our Galaxy?
For further information about mysteries in our universe, please see reports in the Earthfiles Archive organized in chronological order from 1999 to 2016 ongoing of which a few are listed here.
• 01/05/2017 — “Fast Radio Bursts” of Intense Radiation from Galaxy Far, Far Away
• 07/26/2013 — Unidentified Cosmic Radio Bursts Baffle Astronomers.
• 04/05/2016 — Interstellar Travel with Laser Light Propulsion
• 10/22/2016 — Is Our Sun's Mysterious 6-Degree Tilt Linked to A Huge 9th Planet?
• 09/30/2016 — Part 1: Searching for Other Life and Dark Matter in This Universe
• 09/30/2016 — Part 2: Self-Activating Intelligence of Dragonfly and James Webb Telescopes
• 01/29/2016 — Gravitational Evidence of 9th Planet 10 Times the Mass of Earth!
• 06/27/2015 — Is Time An Illusion and the Future Already Written, As Einstein Thought?
• 07/26/2013 — Unidentified Cosmic Radio Bursts Baffle Astronomers.
"Could Fast Radio Bursts Be Powering Alien Probes?" March 9, 2017, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics: https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/news/2017-09
"Harvard Theorists: How Sailing Aliens Could Have Caused Fast Radio Bursts," March 10, 2017, The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/03/10/delightful-thought-experiment-sailing-aliens-caused-furious-and-fast-radio-bursts/?utm_term=.264e71bbc214
"Mysterious Cosmic Radio Blasts Traced to Surprising Source," Nature Int'l. Weekly Journal of Science, January 4, 2017: http://www.nature.com/news/mysterious-cosmic-radio-blasts-traced-to-surprising-source-1.21235
Cornell University "Cosmic Source Found for Mysterious 'Fast Radio Burst'," January 4, 2017: http://mediarelations.cornell.edu/2017/01/04/cosmic-source-found-for-mysterious-fast-radio-burst/
"Mysterious Radio Burst Came from A Galaxy 2.5 Billion Light-Years Away, Astronomers Discover," January 4, 2017, The Washington Post:
Project BREAKTHROUGH Starshot: https://breakthroughinitiatives.org/Initiative/3
Alpha Centauri and Proxima Centauri: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpha_Centauri
Neutron Stars: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutron_star
Auriga Constellation: http://www.constellation-guide.com/constellation-list/auriga-constellation/