Unusual pattern found in fast radio bursts

When radio astronomers first detected the regular beat of a pulsar in 1967, there was some initial excitement that it might be a signal from a distant civilization. However, it was soon realized that pulsars were spinning neutron stars, which are the dense remains of supernovae. At the poles of the neutron star’s intense magnetic fields, which don’t have to line up with the rotation axis, particles are accelerated, causing beams of radiation to be emitted. Like a rotating light house beam aimed in our direction, we see a regular pulse of energy from the very dense star.

This is something to keep in mind when hearing about patterns seen in fast radio bursts, which, as the name implies, are short pulses of high frequency radio waves that last for about a millisecond. They were first detected in 2001 and seen infrequently since. A recent study found an unusual pattern in a group of such pulses: Is this ET? Mystery of strange radio bursts from space – New Scientist

We have detected 10 fast bursts of radio waves (FRBs) coming from space in the past 15 year. The delay between the arrival of the first and last waves of each burst is always close to a multiple of 187.5. No known natural process can explain this.


As with radio pulses, a natural phenomenon of some sort, or just noise from some man-made source,  will very likely be found to explain these bursts.

More at:

Update Apr.4.15: Another item at NS about the signals: Alien FAQ: 6 questions about strange cosmic radio bursts – New Scientist.

Asteroids: Update on Dawn at Ceres + AIM/DART deflection mission + Capture in a gas-filled bag

In case you have been wondering why there have not been any images lately from the Dawn probe of the Ceres asteroid (or dwarf planet as it is now categorized) and those two bright spots on the objects surface, it is because the probe shot past the object and has been far behind Ceres. Seen it could only see Ceres’ night side, no imaging has been done. The planned trajectory has it coming back into orbit around Ceres later this month.

Here is an overview of the status of the mission: Dawn Journal: Preparing to Photograph Ceres – The Planetary Society

Capture3[1]The trajectory of Dawn as it goes past Ceres and then loops back.

The European Space Agency’s Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) will visit a pair of asteroids for scientific exploration and also to investigate issues regarding the defense of earth from asteroid impacts: ESA’s planetary defence test set for 2020 – ESA

ESA’s Asteroid Impact Mission, or AIM. Intended to demonstrate technologies for future deep-space missions, AIM will also be the Agency’s very first investigation of planetary defence techniques.

Launched in October 2020, AIM will travel to a binary asteroid system – the paired Didymos asteroids, which will come a comparatively close 11 million km to Earth in 2022. The 800 m-diameter main body is orbited by a 170 m moon, informally called ‘Didymoon’.

This smaller body is AIM’s focus: the spacecraft will perform high-resolution visual, thermal and radar mapping of the moon to build detailed maps of its surface and interior structure. 

Two years after AIM reaches Didymos, NASA’s DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) spacecraft will collide into the smaller of the two asteroids while AIM observes the amount of deflection of the asteroid and the effects of the collision on the surface structure of the asteroid. This joint mission is called the Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment (AIDA) study:

Dr. Bruce Damer, Tuesday, 3-31-15 – Thespaceshow’s Blog – Dr. Bruce Damer of DigitalSpace talked with David Livingston on the Space Show about a paper with several co-authors on a concept of capturing a small asteroid for NASA’s Asteroid Re-Direct Mission (ARM) within a sealed abd gas filled bag:

A sealed enclosure would make it possible to use an introduced atmosphere of xenon gas to detumble and despin the asteroid, and then to push the asteroid by using a steady xenon gas flow inside this enclosure to transfer the force of the spacecraft’s exterior solar electric propulsion engine to the asteroid.

The paper is available online at SHEPHERD: A Concept for Gentle Asteroid Retrieval with a Gas-Filled Enclosure.

Here is the interview:

figure1[1]Large version (649K)