Mysterious repeating deep space signals ‘may have been produced by aliens’

Earlier this month astronomers found strange repeating signals emanating from deep space.

Now a top astronomer has said there’s a possibility they were produced by an alien civilisation.

The transmissions are called fast radio bursts and are similar to other signals which have been spotted before.

But the recent burst is believed to be the first with a discernible pattern.

Abraham Loeb of Harvard University said there was a possibility that the signal came from aliens, who may use such bursts to propel ‘light sail’ spacecraft.

However, the astronomer is not saying it’s certain the FRBs were made by extraterrestrials but suggesting we can’t rule out the possibility yet.

‘At the moment we do not have a smoking gun that clearly indicates the nature of FRBs,’ he told CNET.

‘So all possibilities should be considered, including an artificial origin. A civilization might generate a powerful beam of light to propel cargos with a sail and we could observe the leakage of that radiation outside the boundaries of the sail.’

Usually these bursts come from various different parts of the sky. They’re huge flares of radiation way out in deep space that last just a few milliseconds as they blaze across billions of miles before we detect them here on Earth.

But the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) has found that one particular signal – known as FRB 180916.J0158+65 – follows the same kind of pattern.

For four days it will spit out a burst or two every hour. Then it goes quiet for the next 12 days before the pattern resumes.

The Canadian team say they have observed this pattern for a total of 409 days and have uploaded their findings to the academic website arXiv for others to scrutinise.

Various explanations for the transmission have been put forward, such as the FRB being linked to the orbit of another mass – such as a star or a black hole that is periodically interfering with the signal.

Unfortunately, the scientific community doesn’t think we’ve picked up evidence of an alien civilisation among the stars just yet.

Leon Oostrum at the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy told New Scientist: ‘If it were an alien beacon I would think it would emit more quickly, because a 16-day period is not efficient for communication.

‘Imagine getting one signal every 16 days – it would take forever to get a message.’

FRB’s were first detected accidentally in 2007, when a burst signal was spotted in radio astronomy data collected in 2001.