Astronomers have just caught a 9-billion-year-old radio signal from space

in resident alienSeason 2 episode “Radio Harry” (now flocking to the peacock!), Harry takes his teleporter to the top of the mountain in order to get the best traffic connection An extraterrestrial radio transmitter known to humans as ‘Oumuamua. You may remember ‘Oumuamua as the first discovered extraterrestrial object that made headlines in October 2017. As far as we know it was just an alien alien and not advanced communication devices from another world.

Even if it’s a satellite radio receiver, there’s not much we can do about it. Instead of trying to signal passing alien invaders, scientists spend a lot of their time listening for signals from deep space. They are not looking for the encrypted messages of evil aliens, but the encrypted messages of the universe itself. That’s because cosmic bodies like galaxies regularly emit radio signals at specific wavelengths, and the details of those signals can tell astronomers about the formation of those bodies.

to me A recent new edition from McGill UniversityAstronomers searching for a radio signal known as the 21-cm line picked up the signal from a galaxy 8.8 billion light-years away. In general, radio signals weaken the farther you travel. This means that there is an effective limit to how far we can listen, depending on both signal strength and the sensor limitations of our instruments.

Related: The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence: The Science Behind ‘Connection’

Prior to this work, radio signals at this frequency had only been captured from nearby galaxies. But astronomers were able to catch it from a distance using the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope in India, thanks to one of nature’s most useful tricks: gravitational lensing.

Very Large Group of Radio Telescopes

Very Large Group of Radio Telescopes Photo: Getty Images

You may remember gravitational lenses from the role I played First round of JWST photos. By activation, it occurs when the gravity of a large object, such as a galaxy or group of galaxies, bends light (in this case radio waves) away from its undisturbed path. Not only does this bending change the path of the light, but it can also amplify the signal.

The signal the astronomers picked up came from the galaxy SDSSJ0826+5630 (a catchy name if we’ve heard it before) and emanated when the universe was less than 5 billion years old. As the signal was accelerating through the universe, far from its point of origin, it passed near another galaxy that lies between its point of origin and Earth. That galaxy boosted the signal by a factor of 30, according to the researchers.

Not only is catching the signal from that distance a technical and physical feat, but it also provides information about galaxy formation much closer to the beginning of the universe. The discovery reinforces the idea that astronomers can dig deeper into the recesses of the early universe than would be possible by looking for the locations of gravitational lenses and seeing beyond them. And these capabilities will only increase as we develop more advanced telescopes.

Just maybe, if we keep pushing the limits of our technology and the limits of what the universe allows, the signal we’re picking up might one day be from an alien after all. We hope they are friendly.

In the meantime, you can hang out with the procrastinating semi-friendly conqueror from beyond the stars in SYFY’s Resident Alien, Now streaming on Peacock!

Resident Alien season two

Resident Alien season two

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