Telescope detects mysterious radio signals from galaxy 1.5 billion light years away

Scientists Find 13 Mysterious Deep Space Flashes Including 2nd Known'Repeater

Astronomers over the years have picked up dozens of "fast radio bursts" (FRBs) - mysterious radio signals detected from an unknown part of the cosmos.

The University of British Columbia team using the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) radio telescope revealed the discovery of a repeating fast radio burst (FRB) - whereby incredible amounts of energy are emitted for just a few milliseconds.

Since their discovery more than a decade ago, 60-plus bursts, each named for its date of detection, have been observed by five telescopes worldwide.

"Until now, there was only one known repeating FRB". Things were such that the data for a fast radio burst was lost, leaving scientists with only details from its metadata, like when and roughly where it occurred.

And if CHIME was able to make these detections before it was even fully up and running, the researchers are hopeful that the new radio telescope will help them find answers about these mysterious signals. "We would also like to study the properties of whole populations of FRBs and try to see if there are different sources that give rise to repeaters and non-repeaters". 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. They don't know whether the bursts are like flashbulbs, lighting up the sky in every direction, or focused beams, which would require less energy but must be more frequent for Earth to see so many of them.

"Extraordinary claims beg for extraordinary evidence, so for now, a simpler explanation based on known physical processes is preferred by most scientists", Pleunis said. The first FRB that repeats was detected in 2012.

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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.

"Knowing that there is another suggests that there could be more out there". CHIME identified a fast radio burst with the lowest dispersion yet discovered, suggesting its source is the closest to Earth.

The source is from something with an extremely powerful magnetic field that produces a signal along the radio frequency band.

This is because CHIME's telescope is quite advanced in comparison to the ones that were being used before, and operates in the lower ranges of 400 MHz - the next one was at 700 MHz. Even though we've evolved our understanding of the cosmos over the past centuries, the reality is that we barely comprehend the many mysteries this vast expanse holds within it. The signals travel billions of light-years through the cosmos but only last a fraction of a second, making them hard to study. "There are some models where intrinsically the source can't produce anything below a certain frequency".

At distances of billions of light years it's obviously very hard to test any of these theories, but detecting more FRBs, especially those that have a habit of repeating, could bring us closer to an explanation.

CHIME is a collaboration of over 50 scientists led by the University of British Columbia, McGill University, University of Toronto, and the National Research Council of Canada (NRC).

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