Astronomers Detect Mysterious Radio Signals From Deep Space


Astronomers have picked up repeating radio signals from a source about 1.5 billion light years away.

There are a number of theories about what could be causing them.

Some of the signal-scattering patterns suggest that the sources of the bursts have to be in special types of locations - for example, in supernova remnants, star-forming regions or around black holes.

Within weeks of CHIME's FRB-detecting software being activated last summer ― in what Lang said was only a testing phase that didn't run on full capacity ― CHIME detected these 13 new bursts.

Scientists do not know what causes fast radio bursts, though they have been speculated to be caused by a neutron star with a very strong magnetic field that is spinning very rapidly, two neutron stars colliding, or by some type of alien spacecraft.

Ingrid Stairs, an astrophysicist from the University of British Columbia, said that a similar discovery was only heard once before - by a different telescope.

The fast radio bursts suggest there could be more out there, researchers say.

Shriharsh Tendulkar, an astronomer from the McGill Space Institute and a co-author of the new study, said radio frequencies help scientists understand possible emission mechanisms, or processes, of FRBs, and also the effects that the radio waves encounter as they travel through space.

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The fast radio bursts (FRBs) have come from deep space with their origin unknown. Scientists believe FRBs emanate from powerful astrophysical phenomena billions of light years away, but they have yet to determine their origin.

Indeed, it's still early days in our understanding of FRBs, but a pair of papers published today in Nature are offering tantalising new clues about this enigmatic feature of the cosmos.

"So what we've shown is that by discovering a second FRB is that the repeating FRB is not unique and maybe we can hope to find more", he said in the video interview. Most FRBs found are at frequencies near 1400 megahertz (MHz).

The low frequency of this new detection could mean that the source of the bursts differ. "But intelligent life is not on the minds of any astronomer as a source of these FRBs", he said.

One reason CHIME was set on this search was that since the world first started detecting the phenomena, astroboffins have upped their estimates of how many such events exist to somewhere between hundreds and thousands a day.

The bursts were first picked up in 2007 (in data archived since 2001) by Australia's Parkes radio telescope, and only a few dozen have been detected since then. "We haven't solved the problem, but it's several more pieces in the puzzle", Tom Landecker, a Chime team member from the National Research Council of Canada, said.

Whatever the photons pass through, that interaction is recorded in the radio waves and can be "translated" after it's received by the telescope. "The fact that we found a second one just like that in a way implies that there could be lots more out there".