New Delhi, September 2: Astronomers working for Stephen Hawking’s Breakthrough Listen (BL) project detected a mysterious signal in a distant galaxy and termed it a possible extra-terrestrial communication which sparked a controversy. They reportedly picked up 15 fast radio bursts (FRBs) from a source unknown and are not sure if they came from neutron stars, black holes or extraterrestrial lives across the universe.

The scientists involved in the £77m project had earlier detected 24 similar signals since January 2016, reports claimed. The Guardian quoted Andrew Siemion, BL Director saying, “Whether or not fast radio bursts turn out to be signatures of extraterrestrial technology, Breakthrough Listen is helping to push the frontiers of a new and rapidly growing area of our understanding of the universe around us.”

According to Independent, BL scientists detected the bursts in the early hours of August 26 using the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. This report also stated that the emissions appeared to line up and come from the same part of space, hence raising speculations that they could be intentional. contrary to opinion of experts who are less confident about the alien communication claim made by BL.

If the Breakthrough Listen project is involved, it seems like you’re leaving information out by *not* referencing aliens

According to Vishal Gajjar, a postdoctoral researcher at Breakthrough Listen who discovered the increased activity, the high resolution of the data obtained by their instrument will enable measurement of the properties of these bursts at a higher precision than ever before.

National Geographic writer Nadia Drake, soon after the report, tweeted saying there can be several reason for the phenomenon observed. She further added that calling this ongoing mystery a alien signal is ‘lazy’.  She said, “Things can go bump (or burst!) in the cosmos and be compelling/fascinating/intriguing without being ALIENS!”. Penn State University faculty member and Research Astronomer Derek Fox supported Drake’s claims.

Some of the experts in their response to the BL claims took a dig at the project and its scientists’ continuous obsession with the extraterrestrial.  “If the Breakthrough Listen project is involved, it seems like you’re leaving information out by *not* referencing aliens,” tweeted Emmy-nominated host of Xploration Outer Space Emily Calandrelli.