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Mystery radio bursts coming from space – but probably not from E.T.

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"If we could view the sky with 'radio eyes' there would be flashes going off all over the sky every day," said Michael Kramer, director of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, and a member of the team reporting its results in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

So far, no one has been able to associate any of these with a particular galaxy, presuming that they have galactic sources. Indeed, once one tries to go beyond the generalization of "exotic sources" for these radio bursts, speculation varies widely on their cosmic transmitters, according to James Cordes, a radio astronomer at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

Evaporating black holes, supernovae, merging neutron stars, or neutron stars with unusually strong magnetic fields compared with other neutron stars all could be possible sources, Dr. Cordes writes in a commentary in Science tied to the new discovery.

But he also cautions patience, noting it took 20 years for astronomers to uncover the sources of gamma-ray bursts, first detected not by astronomers but by satellites designed to spot above-ground nuclear explosions. Only after astronomers began hunting for the gamma-ray bursts and performing near-instant follow-ups with telescopes operating at other wavelengths were they able to uncover the exotic events that triggered the bursts.

The same is likely to hold true for fast radio bursts, he writes.

This is actually the second reported detection of these unique cosmic signals.

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