The Current

Signal from deep space is probably not aliens, just 'exotic physics': prof

The Canadian telescope CHIME has found a repeating fast radio burst in deep space, only the second of its kind to be discovered. We look at some of the theories around what causes the phenomenon — and why some scientists are cautioning that it's probably not aliens.

The fast radio bursts were detected by the CHIME telescope in B.C.

The CHIME telescope will search our universe for phenomena such as fast radio bursts, pulsars and more. (CHIME, Andre Renard, Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of Toronto)
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The detection of a signal coming from deep space is definitely something to be excited about — but it's probably not aliens, warns one of the professors who helped build Canada's CHIME telescope.

"It is really highly unlikely that it's a beacon from other civilisations," said Matt Dobbs, professor of physics at McGill University.

"Much more likely is that it's a demonstration of just how creative, how beautiful nature can be."

In a Nature paper published Wednesday, it was revealed that the CHIME telescope, located near Penticton, B.C., had detected more than a dozen fast radio bursts, or FRBs. It also recorded a repeating FRB, only the second time such a signal has been detected.

Scientists are unclear as to what is creating these cosmic radio bursts — which last only milliseconds — but know that they're travelling from vast distances across in the universe.

Dobbs told The Current's guest host Matt Galloway that the bursts were an example of "exotic physics," and "likely a window into some new natural astrophysical phenomena." 

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear their full conversation.  


Produced by Ines Colabrese, Sarah-Joyce Battersby and John Chipman.

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