Sounds from the abyss

Scientists discover a mysterious pulsing sound 500 million light-years away
Current affairs | 12 February 2020

Top image: Orion Dreamy Stars / image from NASA

For the past thirteen months, scientists have been listening to a mysterious sound nearly 500 million light-years away, repeating on a sixteen-day cycle.

Having recently tracked down this particular FRB (fast radio bursts) to a galaxy called SDSS J015800.28+654253.0, which is a half a billion light-years from Earth, scientists believe they have detected the closest FRB ever.

Humans only discovered FRBs in 2007, and have detected only a few dozen since. Examined over a period of thirteen months, this latest discovery is the first time scientists have seen a FRB pulse with such regular rhythm.

Theories as to what exactly FRBs are differ greatly, from radio waves created by black holes converting into white holes and exploding, to cosmic strings colliding, neutron stars and, just maybe, sounds from extraterrestrial beings being pumped into space.

Discovered by Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment Fast Radio Burst Project (CHIME/FRB), a team dedicated to observing and documenting FRBs, the group measured the repeating bursts using the CHIME radio telescope in British Columbia. “We conclude that this is the first detected periodicity of any kind in an FRB source,” the team said in a paper published in late January. “The discovery of a 16.35-day periodicity in a repeating FRB source is an important clue to the nature of this object.”

While scientists continue to hypothesise the root of this FRB, it continues to shriek into the great abyss.

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