Several bizarrely unheard of radio signals seemingly coming from out of this world are arriving from a close red star only about 11 light-years from planet Earth.
The world's most experienced astronomers aren’t exactly sure what could be causing them either, which is raising the hopes of extraterrestrial hunters that we may have encountered another civilization outside our home world.
The newly discovered radio signals were first picked up back in early May by scientists at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The astronomers say that they were observing red dwarfs, which are smaller, cooler stars, that are usually about half the total mass of our Sun.
When they were researching data on these red dwarfs however they picked up some incredibly unique radio waves coming from a part of the sky where a star that astronomers have named “Ross 128” is located.
While the various pulsing signals appeared to be coming from deep space, possibly from the red dwarf itself, the wave patterns are unlike anything the astronomers would expect from a star, which has puzzled them entirely as to the signal’s origins.
Abel Méndez, Director of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo, and his team are quoted as saying that, “Another interesting fact is that the structure of the signal suggests the incoming waves are originating from deep space.”
Many say that's a bit of an outrageous claim, although it could very well be possible. It could also be the case that the origins of the wave are some yet to be researched solar flares coming from another star or sun, and it wouldn't be wise to rule either out.
What's strange however is that radio signals from solar flares are usually received at much lower frequencies than the ones detected by Arecibo. The waves could also be coming from something unknown in deep space within the field of view of the star Ross 128. But there isn’t anything known to be nearby in the vicinity. “So right now we don’t have a theory to say how this star could do this,” says Méndez.
These known problems leave Méndez and his team to say they're not ruling out a local source, or any other possibilities. Unusually, in this instance, they can’t tell what the origin is or how it's being transmitted, whether it’s from Earth or from space.
Such an odd signal could be nearby radio interference, but local radio waves usually have extremely easily identifiable patterns.
So while it’s definitely possible the signal is coming from a satellite orbiting Earth, it's also unlikely because no known satellites have ever produced signals like this one before, according to Méndez. “Interference can bounce between the mountains and buildings and cause strange things,” he says. “Never like this, though.”
Due to this logic Méndez and his team are fairly sure that these waves are coming from deep space given the structure of the signal. Each radio wave has its own frequencies and how much the wave moves up and down the spectrum in a given period of time is something that most scientists claim to have never seen.
Typically, communications signals from Earth are set at just one preset frequency, which continuously push the same patterns.
For example, in order to locate your favorite radio station, you have to tune your radio to the right frequency the station is broadcasting in. Such unique signals from Ross 128 though contain waves of many different frequencies, and these waves arrived at different times here on Earth.
Specific space anomalies such as solar flares, for instance, have unique and identifiable signatures scientists know to expect. Yet the signal from Ross 128 isn’t like any previous solar flare.
Scientists It could be an entirely new type of solar flare in which they've never seen before. Extraterrestrial hunters would love to remind them there is always the tantalizing option of aliens, but Méndez notes that theory is “at the bottom of many other better explanations.”
It still gives those researchers hope however, because we may have part of this mystery solved very soon. This past Sunday, Méndez and his team at Arecibo got a chance to observe the star again, two months after the first signals were detected.
They’ll now be studying all of that new data this week, and they hope to have details either this weekend or early next week. While they know there is a lot of research to do yet, they’re optimistic the data they received will help them to parse out where the signal is coming from.
Once they're able figure that out, then they can theoretically start to begin the process explaining the cause of the waves. “We’re rushing this because we want to know,” says Mendez.