Astronomers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have picked up on repeated radio signals from a galaxy far, far away.
The researchers compared the signals to the sound of a heartbeat and suggested that a particular type of star could be the source.
The exact location of the source has not been determined; the galaxy is billions of light-years away. (One light-year — the distance that light travels in a year — is 5.88 trillion miles.)
For now, the MIT team suspects that neutron stars, formed from the collapsing cores of giant stars, are the origin of the signals.
These transmissions are also longer than usual. Most interstellar radio waves last only a few milliseconds, but these signals have been lasting up to three seconds.
“Not only was it very long, lasting about three seconds, but there were periodic peaks that were remarkably precise, emitting every fraction of a second — boom, boom, boom — like a heartbeat,” MIT researcher Daniele Michilli said, according to NPR.
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“This is the first time the signal itself is periodic,” Ms. Michilli noted.
New data on what astronomers call “fast radio bursts,” including frequency and how the distance to Earth changes the signals, could help them figure out how fast the universe is expanding.