An ambitious project that was established and funded in part by renowned scientist Stephen Hawking to discover alien life has reportedly accomplished its mission – or so some astronomers are claiming. Others are not quite convinced.
Hawking created the $100 million Breakthrough Listen project (BL) alongside Russian billionaire Yuri Milner in January 2016 as part of an initiative to uncover alien civilizations, The Independent reported.
Recently, the project picked up a whopping 15 fast radio bursts (FRB) in quick succession, compared to the 24 similar signals that have been observed since the time that the project was founded. Astronomers are now suggesting that the FRBs came from a variety of intriguing sources, including neutron stars, black holes, or even alien technology from impossibly far distances away.
One such extraterrestrial phenomenon, classified as “FRB121102,” came from a dwarf galaxy situated roughly three billion light years away from Earth back in 2012.
“Whether or not fast radio bursts turn out to be signatures of extraterrestrial technology, Breakthrough Listen is helping to push the frontiers of a new and rapidly growing area of our understanding of the universe around us,” BL director Andrew Siemion told The Guardian.
The wide range of possible originations of the FRBs kicked off some controversy on social media, with some factions expressing hope that they could signal alien life and others blasting the idea as headline-grabbing piffle.
This is exciting because it *could* mean ALIENS! But..it could also be a black hole, or rotating neutron stars. More research is needed…
— Emily Calandrelli (@TheSpaceGal) August 30, 2017
Invoking aliens as a potential solution to an ongoing mystery is lazy, and arguably not even scicomm.
— Nadia Drake (@nadiamdrake) August 30, 2017
The mysterious emissions were first discovered using the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia on August 26 and raised eyebrows because they appeared to line up and originate from the same part of space. This coincidence led some astronomers to speculate that they were intentional, not random emissions from neutron stars or black holes.