Astronomers detect mysterious repeated radio signal from faraway galaxy for second time

Jan Cross
January 12, 2019

These events emit as much energy in one millisecond as the Sun emits in 10,000 years, but the physical phenomenon that causes them is unknown.

"The fact that the bursts are repeated rules out any cataclysmic models in which the source is destroyed while generating the burst", he added.

However, the biggest of these mysteries is - are we all alone in the universe? "They have yet to see FRBs, but there's a good chance that they will get to see them".

The discoveries, described in two papers in Nature, were presented at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle.

The 13 fast radio bursts (FRB) have previously been picked up once before by a different telescope.

It is not known where they originate from though it is thought they come from sources billions of light years away in the Milky Way.

Unlike typical FRBs that come and go, the discovery of a repeating FRB is vital to increasing our understanding of them, as we are able to train our radio telescopes towards them to study them further.

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Newburgh is co-author of a pair of new studies from the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME), a radio telescope built in 2017 and located in British Columbia.

"We have more ideas of what they could be than we have actual detected fast radio bursts", Dustin Lang, a computational scientist with Ontario's Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics whose software helped detect the FRBs, said in a video released by the Institute on Wednesday.

The bursts were detected by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME), while it was in its pre-commissioning phase and running at only a fraction of its full capacity. Theories on the source of FRBs range from a rapidly rotating neutron star, to a black hole, or even extraterrestrial intelligence. The first signal to do this was named FRB 112102 and was observed by accident in 2007. The radio bursts were observed by CHIME at frequencies between 400 megahertz (MHz) and 800 MHz.

In fall 2018, a SETI project captured a few more new fast radio bursts, but CHIME uses a software which can be used to show the telescope where to look. In some of the 13 cases, the signal at the lower end of the band was so bright that it seems likely other FRBs will be detected at frequencies even lower than CHIME's minimum of 400 megahertz.

As for the new repeater, it's called FRB 180814.J0422+73. What's more interesting is that one of the FRBs recorded by CHIME was repeating in nature and is claimed to have repeated six times from the same location.

The first repeated burst was discovered by the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico in 2015. The frequency patterns also share some characteristics with magnetars, those rotating neutron stars that have always been suspected to be FRB sources.

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