It comes from a mysterious and repeating source - FRB 121102 - far across the universe.
Backed by Mark Zuckerberg, Stephen Hawking, and the billionaire entrepreneur Yuri Milner, The Breakthrough Listen initiative was able to record these odd signals thanks to the Green Bank Telescope, in West Virginia, the Parkes Radio Telescope in Australia, and the Automated Planet Finder of the Lick Observatory, in Mt Hamilton, California. "The new data are likely to be helpful in figuring out what's going on here, but of course it could be that this particular object is a member of an "FRB subspecies" - and not typical of most of these weird cosmic screamers", he says. In 2016, astronomers tracked its origin to a dwarf galaxy about 3 billion light years away. The signals were so strong that the Breakthrough Listen team sent out an astronomer's telegram urging the scientific community to check it out, saying "these observations may indicate FRB 121102 is now in a heightened activity state, and follow-on observations are encouraged". This is the first time bursts from this source have been seen at these frequencies. These FRBs were first detected with the Parkes Telescope in Australia.
"Whether or not fast radio bursts turn out to be signatures of extra-terrestrial technology, Breakthrough Listen is helping to push the frontiers of a new and rapidly growing area of our understanding of the universe around us", Siemion said. Each of the 15 pulses lasted 300 milliseconds.
Now that's what is unique that after the signals being pinpointed in the year 2015, it's heard again a year later. In the early hours of Saturday, August 26, UC Berkeley Postdoctoral Researcher Dr. Vishal Gajjar observed the location of FRB 121102 using the Breakthrough Listen backend instrument at the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia.
"The possible implications are two folds", Gajjar told me via email Tuesday.
Researchers previously found that the 121102 was coming from a dwarf galaxy 3 million light-years away, but they couldn't know much about it due to how fast it appeared and disappeared. The frequency structure we see across our total band of 4 to 8 GHz also allows us to understand the intervening medium between us and the source... For example, 1977's "Wow!" signal was a one-time radio burst lasting several minutes that bore the profile of a potential signal from extraterrestrials (hence its designation, coming from an excited researcher's notes). "Life on Earth consisted of only single-celled organisms, and it would be another billion years before even the simplest multi-cellular life began to evolve".
The fast radio burst FRB 121102 emanates from the galaxy pictured.
Late a year ago, worldwide researchers, including those from McGill University, discovered that the same source was emitting Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) from a dwarf galaxy three-billion light-years away.
This is speculative work though and in the search for alien life, all other possibilities must be excluded first.