Tom Diaz

Radio Burst Nuisance Calls Not from Annoying Spam Call Centers: Space to Earth, Space to Earth, Space to Earth

In Cronatos Hybamper, Espionage, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence on January 5, 2017 at 4:14 pm


In a layperson’s terms, Lt. Kinard had hit every reset and diagnosis button the system offered. He had wracked every available synapse in his brain. Yet he was still looking at the same bizarre, hardly believable result. Four separate satellites seemed to have independently and simultaneously observed a trio of three separate radio microbursts, one each from the Negev Desert, deep Alaska, and Russian Siberia. Each radio burst lasted 3 nanoseconds. Each was broadcast at precisely the same time. There was no discernible variation in the tones. Even when amplified and slowed down, there was nothing to decrypt, and no evidence of a lurking hidden carrier entwined within the identical tones. The geographical sources of the microbursts were identifiable by the usual techniques of target mensuration, refined to a point somewhere within one meter of a notional center. The satellite system had a extraordinary ground resolution distance—highly classified, of course. But none of the resulting images of the target locations showed evidence of any possible human source, or, for that matter, any recent human activity. The terrain for hundreds of kilometers around each point of origin was as undisturbed and unremarkable as virgin territory. No foot prints, no structures, no debris. Nothing.

From Cronatos Hybamper –An Extraordinary Incident by Tom Diaz

This is fiction, of course. But radio bursts are real.

I stumbled into the inspiration to use radio microbursts in my novel while I was researching the use of exactly such very fast, encrypted communications by spies.

One search or another led me to a couple of sources on radio bursts from various points on Earth that were picked up by surveillance satellites. On the face of it, they appeared to be radio transmissions from those points. But further examination showed that they were actually echoes, that is, signals from deep outer space that were bouncing off of our planet.

Naturally, scientists have been curious about the original sources of radio bursts from space. According to news reports, they have finally figured out the origin of at least some of them. Here are examples:

From The Washington Post:

For the first time, scientists have nailed down a source of fast radio bursts, one of astronomy’s most enigmatic phenomena.

A dim dwarf galaxy 2.5 billion light years from Earth is sending out the mysterious millisecond-long blasts of radio waves, researchers report Wednesday in Nature and Astrophysical Journal Letters. The bursts traverse vast expanses of time and intergalactic space before reaching our planet.

“This really is the first ironclad association of a fast radio burst with another astronomical source, so it’s a pretty huge result,” said Duncan Lorimer, an astronomer at West Virginia University who reported the first detection of a fast radio burst (FRB) in 2007.

FRBs are extremely brief pulses of radio waves, flaring with the power of about 500 million suns. Scientists have recorded just 18 of these signals, but studies suggest there could be as many as 10,000 a day.

From The New York Times:

Astronomers have traced a series of brief, enigmatic bursts of radio waves to a galaxy far, far away and indeed a long time ago — some three billion years or so.

But as much as you might be hoping or dreading it to be true, this is probably not E.T.

“We’ve joked about spaceship battles and death stars blowing up, but we think we can explain it with ordinary physics,” said Shami Chatterjee, a Cornell astronomer.

Dr. Chatterjee is the lead author of a paper published in Nature on Wednesday that details the search for the source of the radio waves known as “fast radio bursts,” intense pulses of radiation from the sky lasting only a few milliseconds.

See? Truth really is more boring than fiction. the source in Cronatos Hybamper is tons more interesting and scary.


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