Two different radio telescopes have now picked up fast "burst" signals that seem to originate outside our galaxy.
Let's cut to the chase: Is it aliens?
Right now, scientists don't have enough examples of the bursts to know what is causing them. It is, however, important to note that there are lots of other potential explanations besides the inevitable first contact hypothesis. That said, they also don't have enough data to rule out the idea of an alien civilization metaphorically pointing their flashlight at our window. So speculate away, friends. It could be anything. All we have right now is enough data to know that the answer is likely to be interesting, even if aliens aren't involved.
As you would imagine, there's been lots of speculation about what's behind these mysterious bursts. Some astronomers think they're caused by blitzars, pulses of energy from a supermassive star collapsing into a black hole. Others think they may be caused by power solar flares coming from stars nearer by.
And Lorimer says he has to mention it: "There's even been discussions in the literature about signatures from extraterrestrial civilizations."
It's just a theoretical paper suggesting the bursts could be generated by intelligent beings intentionally beaming a radio signal directly at Earth.
James Cordes, an astronomer at Cornell University who's also on the hunt for an explanation of these radio bursts, says he'd bet against the possibility of extraterrestrial involvement.
I included that last quote in the excerpt so that:
A) We are reminded to look at this news conservatively, with a cool head and clear eye.
B) We all know who to send mocking letters to if it turns out to be aliens.
Image: Arecibo radio telescope — one of the two that have detected the burst signal — Some rights reserved by hmboo Electrician and Adventurer.