It’s pretty clear that humans can have doppelgangers – other persons who look exactly like them, whether in the present or the past – but can galaxies? Astronomers studying fast radio bursts (what astronomer ISN’T studying fast radio bursts these days) hit a quintuple whammy recently when they traced four sets of fast radio burst back to the exact galaxies they were emitted from. And the fifth whammy came from follow-up observations which determined that these galaxies are doppelgangers of the Milky Way. Working its way up to whammy status is the last observation – while they can’t determine the exact cause of these FRBs, they’ve eliminated supermassive black holes – the generally accepted origin theory. That leaves … doppelganger aliens?
“Just like doing video calls with colleagues shows you their homes and gives you a bit of an insight into their lives, looking into the host galaxies of fast radio bursts gives us insights to their origins.”
Who knew we’d someday be Zooming with aliens -- or at least with their galaxies? Dr. Shivani Bhandari, an astronomer with Australia’s national science agency (CSIRO) and lead author of a study published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, explains in a CSIRO press release that this astronomical breakthrough comes from using a specially designed transient detector on CSIRO's ASKAP radio telescope in Western Australia. Not only did this telescope follow the trail back to the exact galaxies of four fast radio bursts, it was even able to determine where in the galaxies the signal source was located.
“These precisely localized fast radio bursts came from the outskirts of their home galaxies, removing the possibility that they have anything to do with supermassive black holes."
OK, not from supermassive, galaxy-central black holes. Aliens? Co-author CSIRO Professor Elaine Sadler thinks they might be coming from merging or colliding white dwarfs (small, dense stars) or neutron stars (collapsed stars that were too small to form a black hole) or magnetars (neutron stars with strong magnetic fields).
It sounds like the number of possible causes is expanding. However, Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who in 1967 was the first to detect the rapidly spinning neutron stars we now know as 'pulsars' (you have to admit, that’s pretty impressive – she should have gotten the Nobel Prize but at least she’s a Dame) had this to say:
"Positioning the sources of fast radio bursts is a huge technical achievement and moves the field on enormously. We may not yet be clear exactly what is going on, but now, at last, options are being ruled out.”
But not aliens … at least, not yet. Fast radio bursts continue to be one of the greatest and most mysterious discoveries of our time. The rapid pace of new discoveries as a result makes this an exciting time – a time that gives hope we may soon replace “I Want to Believe” memes with “I Believe!” facts.
Who knows? You just might have a doppelganger in another galaxy thinking the same thing.