Heartbeats From Deep Space

All the remarkable pictures coming to us in the past few weeks from the new space telescope have some people thinking again about what is “out there” and also about who might be out there too.

I read that it is unlikely that the telescope will show us any signs of other intelligent life, but it might show signs of some life forms. Bacteria and such don’t make for summer blockbuster films, so that idea doesn’t get people very excited.

magnetar – a type of neutron star with a powerful magnetic field

But scientists have picked up a radio signal they are calling a “heartbeat” billions of light-years away. Astronomers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other sites have picked up radio signals that repeat in a clear periodic pattern similar to a beating heart from a galaxy billions of light-years from Earth. The signal was found to last up to three seconds (that is 1,000 times longer than the average radio burst) and repeat every .2 seconds, like a heartbeat.

The scientists don’t think it is some alien sitting at a control panel sending out a message. Though there are not many things in the universe that emit strictly periodic signals, there are some. In our own galaxy, radio pulsars and magnetars rotate and produce a beamed emission, like a lighthouse. 

That’s not a very Romantic explanation of the signal. The alien sending out the signal like E.T.’s heart would be a lot more interesting. But the discovery could help researchers determine at what speed the universe is expanding.

What I do find capital R Romantic is the idea of this “heartbeat” billions of light-years away. Since the time of Edwin Hubble, it has been known the Universe is expanding. More recently, observations have shown that this expansion is accelerating. The reason for this acceleration is unknown but it has been suggested that “Dark Energy” is causing the expansion rate to increase. The origin and physics of this Dark Energy are presently unknown.

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Ken

A lifelong educator on and off the Internet. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

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