Ballroom Blitzar: Massive Space-Based Radio-Wave Bursts, But No Message...Yet

Like many fascinating things, sometimes a thing that exists only in legend surprises everyone and blasts into reality.  This is even more interesting when it's a scientific event.

According to Gizmodo, this week several massive bursts of energy emitted from deep space  were recorded by scientists at the Parkes Telescope in New South Wales, Australia.  The massive bursts of tightly-banded radio-frequency waves are known as "blitzars", although this is just one term for what could possibly be a variety of explanations for the observed phenomena.  Though blitzars only last a millisecond, they emit the same power as the sun would over an entire day.  So astronomically speaking, this is pretty striking.

"Say it again."  -The Parkes Telescope
(Image courtesy scientias.nl.)

Scientists first began identifying blitzars in 2007 thanks to documented astronomical observations.  Although the data was weeks or even years old, nine blitzars were noted to have occurred.  However, this week's observation happened in real time, and appeared to emanate from the constellation Aquarius.  Little more is known about its origins other than that the source "must be huge, cataclysmic and up to 5.5 billion light years away," according to researcher Emily Petroff.

Speculations on the source include flares or collapse from large, possibly magnetically-charged neutron stars, but these ideas are presently unfounded.  As Keith Bannister from Australia's national science agency told New Scientist, "Nobody knows what to make of it...All the ideas are very exotic so ruling them out is all you can do at the moment."

"Burp."  -a neutron star
(Image courtesy science.nationalgeographic.com.)

Scientists will continue watching the skies, including in other bandwidths, to see if there are any complimentary blitzar bursts elsewhere. This could help to quantify the density of interstellar mediums via observing the speed and dispersion of the signal through free electrons in space. So we'll perhaps learn how fast and far such energy can travel...even if we don't yet know what it means.

Could creatures at the source be listening to OUR radio waves?  And are they (rightly) disgusted by our terrible pop music?
(Image courtesy iytimg.com.)

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