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For nearly a decade, astronomers have puzzled over powerful bursts of radio energy that seem to be hailing from billions of light years away. Recently, we received reports of a new wrinkle to this mystery: The bursts appear to follow a mathematical pattern, one that doesn’t line up with anything we know about cosmic physics.

And, of course, when we hear “mathematical pattern,” “radio transmission,” and “outer space,” all strung together, we immediately jump to our favorite explanation—aliens! (Or, you know, a decaying pulsar star, an unmapped spy satellite, or a cell phone tower.)

It’s also possible that the pattern doesn’t actually exist.

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