For the first time, scientists have detected a radio signal from outer space that repeats at regular intervals.
The series of so-called “fast radio bursts” – which are very short-lived pulses of radio waves that come from across the universe – were detected approximately once an hour for four days and then suddenly stopped, only to start up again 12 days later.
This cycle repeated every 16.35 days for over a year, according to a new paper about the research.
The bursts originated from a distant galaxy some 500 million light-years away.
“The discovery of a 16.35-day periodicity in a repeating FRB source is an important clue to the nature of this object,” the scientists said in the paper.
The repeating pattern, reports Science X Network, “suggests the source could be a celestial body of some kind orbiting around a star or another body. In such a scenario, the signals would cease when they are obstructed by the other body.
It’s not likely to be aliens, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said in a statement, because the signals are a sign of energetic events that are on the extreme scale of the cosmos. “Even a highly intelligent species would be very unlikely to produce energies like this. And there is no detectable pattern so far that would suggest there’s a sentient hand at play,” MIT said.