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Scientists are investigating a mysterious repeating radio signal from outside the milky way – Raw Story

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Nearly 500 million light years away, a mysterious radio signal is repeating itself.

It’s a new piece in the puzzle of fast radio bursts (FRBs) — short bursts of radio waves that are so powerful that scientists are able to detect them on Earth, despite their extragalactic origins. Fast radio bursts are hard to study because of how brief they are, meaning telescopes can’t often focus on them in time to get a good look.

Hence, the new discovery of a fast radio burst that repeats once every 16 days is a major clue, and marks the first time scientists have documented a predictable pattern among these mysterious repeating signals that are originating deep in space.

“We conclude that this is the first detected periodicity of any kind in an FRB source,” the researchers said in the paper. “The discovery of a 16.35-day periodicity in a repeating FRB source is an important clue to the nature of this object.” The repeating FRB has been dubbed FRB 180916.J0158+65.

The specific astrophysical event that causes FRBs is still unknown, although all observed FRBs are from galaxies outside our own. Such signals were first spotted in 2007. It was previously thought that such pulses were random, but according to the aforementioned paper published on the server arXiv in late January, researchers studying FRBs discovered that FRB 180916.J0158+65 is a “repeater,” meaning it emits bursts repeatedly and follows a regular pattern.

Scientists have only discovered two repeating FRBs, including the one mentioned above. FRB 180916.J0158+65 was probed using the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME radio telescope) in British Columbia. Using CHIME, researchers found that between September 2018 and October 2019, FRB 180916.J0158+65’s bursts clustered into a period of four days, and then stopped for the next 12 days, before emitting a signal again on the 16th day. The authors of the paper posit one possible explanation could be orbital motion, meaning when an object is moving forward while being pulled by gravity toward another object at the same time.

“Given the source’s location in the outskirts of a massive spiral galaxy, a supermassive black hole companion seems unlikely, although lower-mass black holes are viable,” the researchers further explained. “Future observations, both intensity and polarimetric, and at all wavebands, could distinguish among models and are strongly encouraged, as are searches for periodicities in other repeaters, to see if the phenomenon is generic.”

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Up until this observation, FRBs seemed to be random. Overall, less than 70 FRBs have been documented.

There are competing theories as to what FRBs could be. One explanation posits that that FRBs are the result of a binary system containing a massive star and a neutron star, according to a separate paper published on arXiv that looked at the same data from FRB 180916.J0158+65. In this theory, the neutron star could be emitting radio bursts which are sometimes blocked by an opaque wind.

These latest findings are indicative of how humans may be closer to understanding these cosmic puzzles.

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Though our civilization communicates frequently with radio waves, these mysterious signals are probably not coming from an alien civilization, as Salon has previously reported.

“It is unlikely that all FRBs are from alien civilizations due to the power requirements at cosmological distances, but possible,” Avi Loeb, chair of Harvard’s astronomy department, previously told Salon. “We worked out the numbers in a paper with my postdoc, Manasvi Lingam, two years ago.”

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“One needs to use all the power intercepted by the Earth from the Sun” to create an FRB of comparable intensity to the ones we’ve detected on Earth, Loeb said. However, Loeb did posit that “a small fraction of nearby FRBs could be artificial radio beams sweeping across the sky.”

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University of Calgary study examines if Mars could have once supported life – Ottawa.CityNews.ca

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Was there ever life on Mars?

Using data from the Curiosity rover, a University of Calgary (UofC) scientist is studying Mars’ geology “for signs the planet could have once supported life.”

It’s part of the NASA-led Mars Science Laboratory mission to examine the rocks on the surface of Mars, as they could offer evidence of life on the Red Planet.

“Our goal is to place constraints on whether Mars was habitable,” Tutolo said. “And if Mars was habitable, then we can think about whether it actually did evolve life.”

The study will be using data collected by Curiosity as it was slowly climbing Mount Sharp 10 years ago to finally land in the centre of the Gale crater.

The rover has analyzed the chemistry and minerology of 1,211 samples of rocks and soil surfaces and sent 2,659 results back to Earth.

Tutolo and his team will do experiments in the laboratory to better understand and interpret the results. They will also conduct field research in British Colombia and run numerical models on a computer.

Study focuses on geological transition of rocks

The team will focus on examining the geological transition of rocks from the oldest layers of sediments to the younger layers “deposited in the crater and which formed Mount Sharp around 3½ billion years” ago.

Tutolo’s study suggests the oldest rocks in the crater are from a lake that is river-fed – “fluviolacustrine environment” –while the younger sediments contain extremely soluble salts – magnesium sulphate salts – such as Epsom salt that can be used for bathing. As these salts are extremely soluble, precipitating them requires all the water to be evaporated.

“We think that it must have been drier on Mars in order to precipitate those minerals. What we’re exploring is how that transition is recorded in the rocks,” Tutolo said.

The research is also taking advantage of the “rare-on-Earth” Basque Lakes near Cache Creek, B.C., that contain magnesium sulphate where the same sulphate minerals found on Mount Sharp on Mars are actively precipitating.

Tutolo is trying to answer this question: “Is there a point where it gets so salty that nothing could live there?”

Since Mars is red as a result of all the iron on its surface where its atmosphere doesn’t have similar levels of oxygen to Earth’s atmosphere, the team is using special tools in the lab to examine sensitive substances in the absence of oxygen, such as an anaerobic chamber that simulates conditions on Mars.

Mars’ geology helps understand Earth’s evolution

Understanding the geological transition on Mars will provide information on whether the planet’s environment would still be habitable in drier and colder environments and whether there’s a potential that life evolved and existed on Mars’ surface at that time. If life did evolve, what evidence can we get from the rocks?

“There was probably a period of time when Mars was getting warm and having water again, and going back and forth (from warmer to colder),” said Tutolo.

He explained that the Earth has experienced ice ages and greenhouse climates as a result of the slight variations in its movement through space, whereas Mars’ movement changes a bit more dramatically, making those cycles more enhanced.

Tutolo also adds that the geological history of early Mars helps understand the history of early Earth as there’s limited access to its geological record from that time.

The limited access to early Earth’s geology is attributed to “plate tectonics whereby, over the eons, the surface gets subsumed into the planet’s mantle as continent-sized slabs of rock collide.”

“But on Mars, all of those rocks have been there since they were deposited, some 3½ billion years or more ago,” Tutolo said. “So we can see those rocks on Mars and understand how life evolved on our planet, going from totally abiotic, or without life at all, to what it is today.”

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Blaxtair Inc. embedded pedestrian detection system – Canadian Occupational Safety

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Blaxtair is an embedded pedestrian detection system for industrial vehicles, designed to prevent collisions between vehicles and pedestrians in co-activity zones. It has a smart 3D camera able to distinguish a person from other obstacles in real time and alerts operators in case of danger, without unnecessary alarms.

Blaxtair can be equipped to any industrial vehicle, including but not limited to forklifts and wheel loaders, and is perfect for sites within any industry where co-activity between pedestrians and vehicles poses a safety threat (logistics, warehousing, recycling, mining, construction, etc.)

Blaxtair is made up of 3 main parts:

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Starburst galaxy shines in new 'whirlpool of gold' photo – Space.com

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The ESO’s Very Large Telescope captured this view of the starburst galaxy NGC 4303, with gas clouds of ionized oxygen, hydrogen and sulfur shown in blue, green and red, respectively.  (Image credit: ESO/PHANGS)

A mesmerizing new photo captures bright, golden swirling clouds of gas that generate an exceptionally high rate of star formation. 

This stellar nursery, a spiral galaxy known as NGC 4303 or Messier 61, is located 50 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Virgo. NGC 4303 is one of the largest galactic members of the Virgo Cluster — a large, nearby grouping of galaxies.

NGC 4303 is considered a starburst galaxy, where an unusually high amount of stars are born. In turn, studying this type of galaxy helps astronomers to better understand star formation across the universe, according to a statement from the European Southern Observatory (ESO).

Related: Amazing space views from ESO’s Very Large Telescope (photos)

“Stars form when clouds of cold gas collapse,” ESO officials wrote in the statement. “The energetic radiation from newly born stars will heat and ionize the surrounding remaining gas.” 

The photo, taken using the ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, shows bright swirling clouds of the ionized gas, appearing as a “whirlpool of gold.” The swirling clouds are like cosmic breadcrumbs, tracing the path of new stars being born, according to the statement.  

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Astronomers using the Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument on the VLT observed NGC 4303 at different wavelengths of light to create this “jewel-like” image. Combining their observations revealed a glowing golden whirlpool, speckled with gas clouds of ionized oxygen, hydrogen and sulfur shown in blue, green and red, respectively. 

The recent observations were collected as part of a project called the Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby Galaxies (PHANGS), which aims to uncover nearby galaxies across all wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum, according to the statement. 

Follow Samantha Mathewson @Sam_Ashley13. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. 

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