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Deep space signals detected in Antarctica defy explanation

Scientists launch the experiment Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA) in Antarctica to discover the origin of mysterious space particles. Photo: NASA

Strange detections recorded by the balloon Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA) at the South Pole have so far challenged any explanation.

And now, these strange signals from deep space invite theories beyond conventional physics.

Last spring, a report from the largest neutrino telescope in the world raised the possibility of an anti-universe where, in our view, time runs backwards and the Big Bang it represents an end, not a beginning.

Although it is too early to start looking for our doppelganger reverse aging, physicists are still struggling with strange signals from space that, so far, defy an easy explanation.

What is the Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA)

The signals were signaled by a collection of radio antennas financed by NASA, held high above Antarctica by a giant balloon.

The device picks up radio signals produced when high-energy particles from deep space encounter our atmosphere.

Some waves hit the Earth before reaching ANITA and others bounce off the ice. ANITA can detect the difference.

During its first fluctuation in 2006 and again in 2014, the device detected anomalous signals that resembled the type that glides across the Earth – but, strangely, they seemed to be coming from the surface.

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Physicist Stephanie Wissel, from Penn State, who works on the ANITA experiment, said:

“It means that they had to go through a large piece of the Earth.”

What are these mysterious space signals in Antarctica?

At the heart of this mystery are neutrinos: ghostly, high-energy particles that can flow unharmed by almost any material, but can produce the telltale radio pulses that ANITA captures.

To further investigate the unusual signs, physicists turned to the IceCube, a neutrino telescope made up of long chains of detectors buried near the South Pole.

A neutrino that passes through the ice can produce other particles that emit tiny flashes of light that the sensors of the IceCube we can detect.

Scientists reasoned that ANITA’s anomalies should also have produced signals in the IceCube, and these signals could reveal the source of the particles in deep space. But after eight years of researched data, the mystery remained: the exhaustive analysis found no match.

Physicist Justin Vandenbroucke of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who works at the neutrino observatory, said:

“If the ANITA signal were an astrophysicist, we should be able to detect it in IceCube – and we didn’t. ”

An unsolved space mystery and some hypotheses

The new findings, published in the The Astrophysical Journal, mean that scientists need to keep looking for less obvious explanations.

Some proposed that the anomalies arose from radio waves that bounce through caves or lakes buried in the ice.

Other theorists have proposed more exotic ideas, such as that the heavy high-energy particles according to ANITA data may describe a candidate for dark matter – the mysterious thing that is believed to constitute 85 percent of matter in the universe, but has never been detected.

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Still others raise the hypothesis that the exotic particles fit into an existing theoretical model of a parallel universe – one that is symmetrical to ours, but populated with antimatter and running backwards.

Only new questions and tests will confirm – or refute – theories about these mysterious particles in deep space and how the universe started. There is an interesting new physics to be done.

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