Hundreds of mysterious radio bursts have been detected in space by a new telescope, it has been revealed, as astronomers ponder whether they could be coming from extraterrestrial civilisations.
Fast Radio Bursts, very short and very intense pulses of radio waves, were first discovered in 2007. Lasting as little as a fraction of a millisecond, they are thought to travel to Earth from other galaxies far out in the universe, and could be coming from other civilisations, according to Harvard Professor of Science Avi Loeb.
The Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) programme has used a radio telescope in British Columbia to observe 535 new FRBs in a 12-month period between 2018 and 2019, the first results show. Team member Kaitlyn Shin, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said: "Before CHIME, there were less than 100 total discovered FRBs. Now, after one year of observation, we've discovered hundreds more... We can start getting a picture of what FRBs look like as a whole, what astrophysics might be driving these events and how they can be used to study the universe."
The brief beacons have been spotted in various, distant parts of the universe, as well as in our own galaxy and also register in the radio band of the electromagnetic spectrum.
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But Prof Loeb, who was not part of the study, does not want us to discount the possibility that these beams are coming from other life-forms.
Writing in American Scientist, Prof Loeb said: "It's a long shot, but could at least some of these energy blasts from across the universe come from extraterrestrial civilisations?"
The professor, who says "it would be arrogant to think we're alone in the universe", argued that "a powerful radio beam could be used for military purposes or might be generated to push a light sail and launch a massive cargo close to the speed of light."
"This sounds like an unrealistic ambition for our own civilisation. But despite what many of us might have heard from our parents, we might not be the smartest kids on the block after all," he added.The findings come as the US government is preparing to release its much anticipated report into UFOs.
It has been claimed that the analysis of 120 UFO sightings over the last two decades has found no evidence of alien origins - but could not rule it out.
Senior government officials briefed on the report told the New York Times they were increasingly concerned the sightings could be Chinese or Russian hypersonic aircraft.