Tuesday, May 13, 2014

SPEARHEAD: 'Radio signal threat from space almost certain'

Some 3 years ago, astronomers detected a series of fleeting but powerful radio signals with the Parkes radio telescope in New South Wales, Australia. While initially unknown as to their origin, or even their existence, the Aricebo Observatory in Puerto Rico confirmed that they're real and originate outside the galaxy. In milliseconds, each of the radio bursts released as much energy as the sun emits in 300,000 years.

While the transient nature of the signals is not the main focus of discussion but instead just how far away they seem to be. Normally, radio waves travel at light speed so all the different wavelengths and frequencies of radio waves emitted by the same object should arrive on Earth in one big batch, but if something is sufficiently far away, this changes. Longer, lower frequency waves travelling through the cosmos have a trickier time getting here. The delay can only be theorised but it's allowing allowing astronomers to estimate that the waves are coming from something billions and billions of light-years away unlike most cosmic radio signals that originate in the Milky Way or a nearby neighbouring galaxy.

Arecibo Observatory By Jerry Valentin
There are a number of theories for the origin of the signals including blitzars [overweight neutron stars that resist the urge to become black holes], magnetars [neutron stars with strong magnetic fields], evaporating black holes and gamma ray bursts that involve a supernova. Cornell University astronomer James Cordes speculates that the bursts could be from an entirely new type of high-energy astrophysical event but SPEARHEAD warned the UNSC last week that it could be the result of either a mishap with some alien weapon of extraordinary power, or worse one that's working perfectly.

Lt. Gen. "Knuckles" McKenzie, Vice Commander, SPEARHEAD warned that any fully unexplained phenomenon in space is cause for alarm and that immediate UN funding be siphoned to SPEARHEAD to develop WMDs to defend the planet against from "a threat that we know not more than what we know". Cordes added fuel to McKenzie's concern adding that there was currently no way for use to even see all that is threatening the planet "Typically, telescopes only look at a very small patch of the sky at any one time, so you have to look for a long time before seeing many. This is why we have only detected a handful so far.” Cordes wrote in an article published in Science: "A Population of Fast Radio Bursts at Cosmological Distances."

Source: Mr. V / IO9 / Science

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