A mysterious object 500 million light-years away has baffled scientists after transmitting signals that hit Earth every 16 days.
Scientists do not know what is causing the phenomenon, but it is being recognized as the first reliable pattern of fast radio bursts in deep space.
These newly discovered radio bursts repeat their activity every 16 days – suggesting something is controlling them.
Researchers have so far found over 100 types of fast radio bursts, but only 10 of those have been seen to repeat – and none have shown any consistent tempo.
Astrophysicists discovered the pattern in data from the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, or CHIME, radio telescope in British Columbia.
In this particular instance, around one to two radio bursts will blast out per hour for four days before going silent for 12 days.
The cycle then repeats itself.
These bursts were recently traced to a spiral galaxy nearly 500 million light-years away from Earth.
Duncan Lorimer, an astrophysicist at West Virginia University in Morgantown told Science News: “This is very significant.
“It’s potentially going to take us in an interesting direction to get to the bottom of these repeaters.”
It has been suggested that this particular fast radio burst could be orbiting something else, such as a star or a black hole.
Winds could be another cause, periodically boosting or blocking radio pulses.
But despite scientists not knowing what causes the signals, they are ruling some things out.
Leon Oostrum at the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy told New Scientist: “If it were an alien beacon I would think it would emit more quickly because a 16-day period is not efficient for communication.
“Imagine getting one signal every 16 days – it would take forever to get a message.”