The news that a telescope in China has detected a possible signal of alien origin has spread like wildfire. The truth is that not even the announcement, which apparently already demanded caution, is official. Waiting for new information to arrive, it is worth reviewing what we know and other similar announcements that have arrived in recent weeks.
What we know and what we don’t know about the new announcement.
According to publican various media, the announcement comes from the Chinese publication Science and Technology Daily, although it is not possible to access the piece in which the finding was reported. The signal would have been captured by the FAST telescope (Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope), also known as Sky Eye, located in southwestern China.
The person responsible for this sighting would be Zhang Tongjie, who would have called for caution from the outset, explaining that, although the origin is not yet known, the probability that it is a simple interference. If the signal is confirmed will have to wait even longer for the investigations to proceed.
The Sky Eye telescope.
FAST is one of the great tools that we have today in the search for extraterrestrial life, but this is not its only mission. Its use has been open to the international community for two and a half years, and it began its steps by capturing the radio waves emitted by pulsars, discovering more than a hundred. Specifically, the telescope is sensitive in the low frequency radio bands.
The telescope is surrounded by a perimeter of “total silence”, in which various electronic devices capable of causing interference with the contraption are prohibited. The dish of this telescope measures 500 meters in diameter, 66% more than the 305 meters of the already retired Arecibo telescope.
The signs that have been confirmed.
Exactly a week ago the journal Nature published a finding carried out by the Sky Eye telescope. This is one of the so-called fast radio bursts (FRB). These signals are still a mystery, but we have been detecting them since 2007.
The list of signals of this type captured so far is extensive, and this finding adds one more. FRB 190520, as this signal was baptized, is considered an anomalous signal among these already strange signals. These signals are usually unique, although a few show regular patterns. FRB 190520 not only belongs to a second group of signals, but is also particularly active. In any case, the more signals of this type that are captured and analyzed, the more we can learn about their origin.
A very media search.
The search for life on other planets is a topic that interests locals and foreigners alike, which makes it a breeding ground for oversized stories, so it is always advisable to be cautious when drawing conclusions. In recent months we have been assailed by news on the subject, some with more rigor than others. Last week without going any further, news arrived that the US space agency, NASA, had created a research group to take charge of the analysis of “unidentified aerial phenomena”.
Also recently, the theory that estimated the number of hostile alien civilizations that could be lurking in our galaxy (there were four) reached the media. Although the study could have its interest from the geopolitical point of view, its rigor as an astrophysical study was rather scarce.
In any case, the search will continue, because the human curiosity to know their environment is already great, but our curiosity to know if we are accompanied in that environment is even greater.
Imagen | Wu dongjun/AP