back to article Astroboffins agog after spotting the first repeating fast radio burst that pings every 16 days from another galaxy

Astronomers have, for the first time, detected a fast radio burst that spews powerful radio signals from the distant depths of space on a regular schedule, according to fresh research. Fast radio bursts are bizarre. They appear as bright blips of radio light that last less than a few milliseconds before disappearing, only to …

  1. Winkypop Silver badge
    Alien

    Carefull

    Once decoded, might be Vogon poetry.

    1. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: Carefull

      And half the sites on the internet will include Javascript that autoexecutes a reading of the alien message by Kanye West over, and over, and over. There will be a Close button on the video. But, being Javascript, it will take between seven and thirteen minutes to work once activated.

      Fortunately, The round trip latency for these radio bursts will be about six billion years, so we don't have to worry to much about folks calling in to the station and requesting their favorite Volgon poem.

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Carefull

        Maybe we could send a star ship out to investigate...

        And then the report comes back, the entire system was discriminated but had held a super powerful alien race, buildings everywhere - one building had a broken window that was flapping in the solar breeze and knocking against a device that looks like it might have been an old mobile phone. As the window touched the screen it seems to have been making a post on some alien app called Tentaclebook.

        (On the Beach updated).

    2. HildyJ Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Carefull

      I decoded the link and got Rickrolled. Stupid alien trolls.

    3. Grikath

      Re: Carefull

      Welll.. I dived into the the Arxiv article, and noted the estimated distance of 485 million light years...

      So accounting for redshift, the original opus would have been done in far-UV or low Gamma.. Now that's proper Vogon poetry for you... Gets you right to the bone..

    4. Charlie van Becelaere

      Re: Carefull

      Sorry about my upvote - it took you to 43. I should have left well enough alone.

  2. STOP_FORTH Silver badge

    I'm agog

    Don't you people at the Reg ever sleep?

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: I'm agog

      You can get speed from Deliveroo these days.

    2. Blackjack Silver badge

      Re: I'm agog

      Haven't you noticed the two days a week this site gets almost no updates?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm agog

      Hello Agog. Shirley that's not your real name?

  3. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
    Alien

    Aliens? Or something more prosaic? We're hoping for aliens

    "Oh God, aliens... Your explanation for anything slightly peculiar is aliens, isn't it? You lose your keys - it's aliens. A picture falls off the wall - it's aliens. That time we used up a whole bog roll in a day, you thought that was aliens as well!"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Aliens? Or something more prosaic? We're hoping for aliens

      Since aliens do actually exist in our immensely vast universe, it’s not that unreasonable to include them in the mix of possibilities.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Alien

        Re: Aliens? Or something more prosaic? We're hoping for aliens

        Picture\proof please or it never\hasn't happened.

        1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

          Re: Aliens? Or something more prosaic? We're hoping for aliens

          PLAYMOBIL or it never happened, please! We do have standards to maintain on El Reg!

          1. Someone Else Silver badge

            Re: Aliens? Or something more prosaic? We're hoping for aliens

            Don't think I've ever seen a Playmobil alien. Pictures, or it nev... oh, wait........

            1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

              Re: Aliens? Or something more prosaic? We're hoping for aliens

              You want Playmobil Aliens? HERE

              So come on : Playmobill or it never hapened. OK?

      2. steelpillow Silver badge

        Re: Aliens? Or something more prosaic? We're hoping for aliens

        It's unreasonable to suggest that aliens might be broadcasting messages in arbitrary directions at cosmic power levels on varied schedules from multiple locations across the galaxy and even other galaxies.* The days of lighthouses and hidden rocks are long gone.

        Any aliens who can detect the things too are more likely to be like us and wondering WTF?

        .

        .

        * Unless they were Vogons, of course.

        1. John Jennings Bronze badge

          Re: Aliens? Or something more prosaic? We're hoping for aliens

          Unless its a cosmic art project.....

          1. Charlie van Becelaere

            Re: Aliens? Or something more prosaic? We're hoping for aliens

            It's probably a faux traffic jam.

        2. hplasm
          Alien

          Re: Aliens? Or something more prosaic? We're hoping for aliens

          oh shit. Cosmic Influencers...

          Raise Shields and harden the IPS!

        3. jelabarre59 Silver badge

          Re: Aliens? Or something more prosaic? We're hoping for aliens

          It's unreasonable to suggest that aliens might be broadcasting messages in arbitrary directions at cosmic power levels on varied schedules from multiple locations across the galaxy and even other galaxies.*

          The big issue I've seen with trying to detect "alien" transmissions (presuming they even broadcast in a band/frequency we'd recognize as radio/TV) is we have to detect them at JUST the right period in their development. Just look at our own broadcast history; from Marconi's earliest transmissions in the 1890's to 125 years later, we went on a curve of more and stronger broadcasts, but then moved to cabling, terrestrial satellite (which would be transmitting down to the surface rather than out), and various encoded streaming services over those lines. Moving to digital broadcast meant while we had more bandwidth, we have less range (our house gets *no* broadcast television). I'd suspect we're leaking far less for broadcast signals than even 25 years ago.

          So effectively you'd have to catch that other civilization's signals during their century-long "noisy" period. I could be wrong, my wife would attest to that...

          1. Muscleguy Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: Aliens? Or something more prosaic? We're hoping for aliens

            My wife got annoyed by the fact that I was apparently right more often than I had a right to be. It's tough sometimes to be a lifelong learner scientist with a photographic memory. I learn stuff and retain it.

            Weep for me.

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Aliens? Or something more prosaic? We're hoping for aliens

      It's a well known fact that aliens don't use keys, they teleport in and out so they wouldn't steal your keys.

      The large ones are clumsy but you would notice one knocking a picture off the wall, as for toilet paper; you have heard of Terran Tummy?

    3. jasha

      Re: Aliens? Or something more prosaic? We're hoping for aliens

      Well, we didn't use it all, Oncoming Scorn. Who did?

      1. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble? Silver badge

        Re: Aliens? Or something more prosaic? We're hoping for aliens

        Quagaars, obviously

    4. DailyLlama

      Re: Aliens? Or something more prosaic? We're hoping for aliens

      It's ok, *I* got the Red Dwarf quote even if no-one else did.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Aliens? Or something more prosaic? We're hoping for aliens

      Preposterous! Of course aliens are not the cause of all unexpected phenomena.

      You lose your keys -> gnomes.

      A picture falls off the wall -> ghosts.

      Recent politics -> OK, this is because of aliens (https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/politics-3).

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Aliens? Or something more prosaic? We're hoping for aliens

        The universe. Some information to help you live in it.

        One: ‘Area’. Infinite. As far as anyone can make out

        Two: ’Imports’. None. It’s impossible to import things into an infinite area, there being no outside to import things in from.

        Three: ‘Exports’. None. See ’Imports’.

        Four: ‘Rainfall’. None. Rain can not fall because in an infinite space there is no up for it to fall down from.

        Five: ‘Population’. None. It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, but that not everyone is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds. So, if every planet in the universe has a population of zero, then the entire population of the universe must also be zero, and any people you may actually meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.

        1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

          Mr Olber takes a trip outside.

          4a) Sunlight

          In an infinite universe, every point in the sky connects to a star so the darkest patch in the sky would be the area where the sun is occluding the background rays.

          1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

            Re: Mr Olber takes a trip outside.

            I know you're joking, but due to expansion, there is only so far we can see across the universe. Due to space expanding uniformly, as you get further away, the relative acceleration away from us increases. There is a limit at which this is the speed of light, and you can see no further. Also, due to red-shifting, the further something is, the longer the wavelength of the light coming from it. Hence the cosmic background radiation (which is the oldest, hence the furthest thing we can see) being in the microwave region of the EM spectrum. If you could see microwaves, the night sky would indeed be pretty bright, from the echoes of the big bang.

            1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

              Re: Mr Olber takes a trip outside.

              Expansion? What expansion? An infinite universe is already infinite and therefore, by definition, cannot expand. So your argument is clearly invalid!

              Yes, if you apply modern astrophysics to an idea that was already old when Herr Olber penned it in 1823, then you will find a lot wrong with it. For example, three quarters of all stars are M-dwarfs, which aren't as bright as the sun, so even in an infinite, non-expanding universe, it's unlikely the sky would be as brighter as the sun. And the instellar medium famously reddens light, even without expansion.

      2. jelabarre59 Silver badge

        Re: Aliens? Or something more prosaic? We're hoping for aliens

        Preposterous! Of course aliens are not the cause of all unexpected phenomena.

        You lose your keys -> gnomes.

        Nope, not that either. It's just that the blue-suited construction workers forgot to place them there when they built that minute.

        1. Vector

          Re: Aliens? Or something more prosaic? We're hoping for aliens

          Besides, everyone knows gnomes steal underpants!

  4. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Alien

    Decoded signal....

    We'd like to invite you Earthlings over...FOR DINNER!! (Dun!, Dun!!, DUUUUNNNNNNN!!!!!!)

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Decoded signal....

      Alternatively, the message is ...

      "WE APOLOGISE FOR THE INCONVENIENCE"

      Should the message be from the direction of Sirius, the best guess would be:

      "Go stick your head in a pig"

      I'll get me coat

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Decoded signal....

        Perhaps the government has actually already secretly known about these signals, decoded them, and covered them up, but somehow, one David Cameron found out about the Sirius message back then, and misinterpreted the word 'head' (if misinterpretation it was)?

      2. not.known@this.address Silver badge

        Re: Decoded signal....

        Michael, don't you mean your Dressing Gown? (And don't forget your towel...)

        1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Decoded signal....

          Coat it is (nobody is trying to drive a bypass through my house, after all). Got the book, electronic thumb and towel at the ready (and a few packets of peanuts).

          1. Blofeld's Cat Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Decoded signal....

            And beer, don't forget the beer to buffer your system...

            Ford: “You’d better be prepared for the jump into hyperspace. It’s unpleasantly like being drunk.”

            Arthur: “What’s so unpleasant about being drunk?”

            Ford: “You ask a glass of water.”

            BTW 22:30 UTC on Sunday, 8 March 2020 will mark exactly 42 years since "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" was first broadcast - have your towel ready...

      3. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

        Re: Decoded signal....

        "Share and enjoy!"

      4. Someone Else Silver badge
        Coffee/keyboard

        @Michael H.F. Wilkinson -- Re: Decoded signal....

        Look what you went and made me did!------->

    2. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      Re: Decoded signal....

      "Does anyone know how to turn this off? Anyone? Please?"

    3. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Decoded signal....

      After running the signal through standard decryption, I can tell you it says something about a hyperspatial bypass and 24 hours.

      1. Roger Kynaston Bronze badge
        Coat

        Re: Decoded signal....

        nah, they are flipping a coin for the game of intergalactic bar billiards and some tiny blue green ball is about to be potted into a black hole.

        I know, I'm off.

      2. Marketing Hack Silver badge
        Alien

        Re: Decoded signal....

        Yes. the bypass plans have been on file and available for comment at our regional planning office at FRB 180916.J0158+65 for the last 270 standard astral days, as required by the Integalactic Public Works Code, section 2112, subsection 34, paragraph 3.

    4. DiViDeD Silver badge

      Re: Decoded signal.... To Serve Man

      "It's not a diplomatic handbook - it's a recipe book!"

  5. Efer Brick
    Alien

    Alien TV

    How long before they invade, claiming copyright theft

    1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: Alien TV

      hmm it appears to be an episode of "Single Female Lawyer"

      (Yes I cba to come up with another joke to distract you from Mysteron coded messages being passed via space radio)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's an alien planet much like ours and every sixteen days they have a celebration of lard and what we are picking up is the surge in messages from them wishing each other a happy lard day. In the future we will find that lard is the one constant in this universe of ours. Praise the lard.

    1. Muscleguy Silver badge

      If they have lard then my must make sausages as well. Apart from constituting the hot fat to cook them in toad in the hole making sausages is the only use I have for lard. Thank goodness the stuff is so cheap.

      I also have suet for the black pudding I make. Our local Chinese supermarket stocks 500g packs of frozen pig's blood. Mighty convenient. I make a Scottish recipe BP, with lots of oats a bit of cooked rice and secret spices (only found it on one website which constitutes high niche secrecy). Everyone I've fed my BP to has praised it. I use it in place of sausage meat in stuffing poultry. A whole Balmoral chicken.

  7. Korev Silver badge
    Alien

    And the response

    And the response from Earth:

    Our call centres are experiencing usual demand at the moment, your call is very important to us and will be answered as soon as possible

  8. MrKrotos

    Its E.T!

    Finally phoning his second home :)

  9. not.known@this.address Silver badge
    Alien

    I'd go for something a lot more prosaic.

    It's either "All these worlds are yours except Quarglefarx. Attempt no landings there." or "Danger Solarcorona virus present - Keep Out!"

  10. adam payne Silver badge
    Alien

    Astroboffins agog after spotting the first repeating fast radio burst that pings every 16 days from another galaxy

    Is it from another galaxy or is it from dark space?

  11. Mage Silver badge
    Alien

    Not Aliens, sadly

    The only use Aliens have for powerful radio or optical sources is navigation using natural events, mostly Pulsars. Assuming that (a) there is a way to sensibly travel beyond one's own star system and (b) that one or more Alien species has discovered how to do that. Though we already can use Pulsars for interplanetary navigation. Nature's Lighthouses.

    This will almost certainly be at least a binary pair of stars.

    Possibly the single FRB events are a star "falling" into a black hole or another star.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How far away is this ?

    I trawled the article 3 times and saw no mention of how far away FRB 180916.J0158+65 is.

    I had to go to another site to get: 500 million light-years away

    1. Spherical Cow Bronze badge

      Re: How far away is this ?

      In the article:

      "The researchers recorded 28 bursts from the object codenamed FRB 180916.J0158+65 – some 500 million light-years away – from September 2018 to October 2019."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How far away is this ?

        Yeah - I emailed El Reg, and they corrected it.

  13. Victor Ludorum

    A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away

    see title

    V.

  14. herman Silver badge
    Devil

    Damn, even Comcast has faster ping times than that.

  15. Bendacious

    Not silent, deadliness yet to be determined

    Fascinating stuff but I can't be the only one saddened that the science world settled on FRB, rather than the much more evocative FRT (Fast Radio Transient). A few years ago there was a lot of talk of noisy Frts being detected out there but I suppose the same people who carefully pronounce ur-an-us put a stop to that. How are we going to get young people (and immature adults, such as myself) interesting in astrophysics if we strip all toilet humour from the subject?

  16. BOBSta
    Alien

    Tsk, Scientists!

    "Fast radio bursts are bizarre. They appear as bright blips of radio light that last less than a few milliseconds before disappearing, only to occasionally pop again unpredictably. Some have only been spotted once, and a few are known to flare up randomly now and again. Their erratic nature makes them difficult to study and scientists still don’t know what they are really caused by."

    Obviously this is the exhaust trail of alien hyperdrive technology.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. Ts, scientists

    Yes others have suggested this possibility.

    Could the "Wow!" signal from 1977 have been some craft dropping out of hyperspace a few hundred LY away due to an engine malfunction sending out a distress signal maybe? Sort of like a cosmic CQD.

    Also relevant: LIGO has picked up many strange signals including one the day it was being calibrated but this couldn't be used as it was at the time believed to be a measurement error. In retrospect other sensors picked up something similar so we could have to revise the earliest GW detection back a bit.

    Watch this space!!

    1. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

      Re: Re. Ts, scientists

      In a couple of S.F. stories, autonomous probes pass by the Earth. Some of those report home. I sometimes wondered whether the "WOW!" signal was our antenna passing through the beam of one of those.

      If it was, depending on the location of the probe and its relationship to Earth and its homeworld we might have been extremely lucky to get even a few seconds of signal. As Earth, Home and Probe are all moving in three-space, it is not astonishing that the signal was never captured gain.

      Astronomers did look for other signals coming from where "WOW!" seemed to originate from but heard nothing. Perhaps they should have searched the antipodean point, too?

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