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Astronomers are trying to explain highly unusual radio waves detected from a nearby red dwarf star.

What happened: This past spring, Astronomers at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico observed high-frequency radio wave pulses at a rate "unlike anything they had ever observed before" coming from star Ross 128, which is about 11 light years away.

These are a few of the possible explanations, per the Atlantic:

  • Solar flares, but: red dwarf flares "occur at much lower frequencies and travel in different directions than what was seen around Ross 128."
  • Crossing radio signals from another object in the "telescope's field of view," but: astronomers haven't seen anything to suggest that.
  • Passing satellites, but: astronomers "have never seen satellites release signals of this nature."
  • Interaction with an orbiting planet, but: "no planets have ben discovered around Ross 128."
  • Radio frequency interference, but: astronomers don't think that's likely.
  • Aliens, but: that's the least likely possibility.

Go deeper

The modern way to hire a big-city police chief

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

When it comes to picking a city's top cop, closed-door selection processes have been replaced by highly public exercises where everyone gets to vet the candidates — who must have better community-relations skills than ever.

Why it matters: In the post-George-Floyd era, with policing under utmost scrutiny, the choosing of a police chief has become something akin to an election, with the need to build consensus around a candidate. And the candidate pool has gotten smaller.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
45 mins ago - Economy & Business

Speculative crypto art market takes off

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Move over, GameStop. The newest speculative game in town is NFTs — digital files that can be owned and traded on a plethora of new online platforms.

Why it matters: Most NFTs include some kind of still or moving image, which makes them similar to many physical art objects. Some of them, including a gif of Nyan Cat flying through the sky with a pop-tart body and rainbow trail, can be worth more than your house.

New coronavirus cases fall by 20%

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

New coronavirus infections continued their sharp decline over the past week, and are now back down to pre-Thanksgiving levels.

The big picture: Given the U.S.’ experience over the past year, it can be hard to trust anything that looks like good news, without fearing that another shoe is about to drop. But the U.S. really is doing something right lately. Cases are way down, vaccinations are way up, and that’s going to save a lot of lives.