Scientists searching through the universe for signs of alien life have picked up more than 100 signals coming from deep in space.
The blasts were heard by China’s new, vast “FAST” telescope, which its engineers say is the world’s most sensitive listening device.
On 29 August alone, researchers say they received “more than a few dozen bursts” from one specific source deep in the universe.
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The blasts are made up of fast radio bursts, or FRBs, which come to Earth in the form of extreme and energetic radio signals.
FRBs are incredible loud but still entirely unexplained, with scientists having little idea where they could be coming from or what could send out such an intense blast. Scientists have suggested possibilities including a star falling into a black hole or artificial bursts being sent through the universe from alien life.
Only a small number of the FRBs have ever been found to repeat. But it was one of those repeating bursts – which offer the best chance of understanding more about the origin – that scientists picked up sending huge numbers of blasts through the FAST telescope.
Researchers have been monitoring the source since since 2012, when it was first found and christened FRB121102. But now that the 500-meter FAST telescope has been switched on, scientists have been able to see even more of them.
The science team working on the telescope are now picking through the data, collected at the end of August and beginning of September, to understand where it might be coming from.
As well as allowing for the further study of existing sources, scientists hope to use the technology on the FAST telescope to find yet more FRBs, Chinese state media reported.
As well as looking for more FRBs, the telescope will be used to look for other hints to the nature of the universe, now that it is fully functioning. That will include searching for sources of hydrogen, which could shed light on how the universe came to exist.