Astronomers detect more mystery radio bursts from beyond the Milky Way

The mysterious radio bursts were detected by the world's most powerful radio telescope

The second repeating fast radio burst (FRB) was found by a Canadian-led team of scientists from the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) telescope located in the mountains of British Columbia's Okanagan Valley.

"That is pretty important, actually", Ingrid Stairs, a UBC astrophysicist involved with the project, says.

"And with more repeaters available for study, we may be able to understand these cosmic puzzles a bit better", Stairs added.

The telescope, which resembles a set of skateboarding half-pipes, was built as part of the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) to record radio signals from outer space.

The unexplained radio bursts were recorded over the course of just three weeks in July 2018, during the telescope's warmup phase.

"Until now, there was only one known repeating FRB". Moreover, the CHIME scientists, in this study suggest that FRBs are more common than our current technology is able to reflect.

There's no definitive cause of these fast radio bursts and it's unclear what caused multiple FRBs from the same location.

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One of the astronomers involved in the discovery, Deborah Good, said to Nature that they do not have almost enough data to even begin explaining what makes FRBs. Intriguingly, one of these newly documented bursts is a repeater, becoming just the second-known repeating fast radio burst among the 60 documented so far.

Of the 13 new blasts that were picked up, at least seven of them were recorded at 400 MHz - the lowest frequency of any yet discovered.

Since FRBs occur so quickly, studying them and identifying the source is hard. 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.

Cornell University's Shami Chatterjee, a fellow FRB researcher, agreed: "This field is about to break wide open". As the Earth rotates, the portion of the universe in that small sky section is visible to the telescope, which was designed specifically to monitor FRBs. While interesting, these new observations, he said, can not tell us about the nature of these sources-at least not yet. He even reckons the FRBs could be coming from "planet-sized alien transmitters", The Guardian reports.

"[We now know] the sources can produce low-frequency radio waves and those low-frequency waves can escape their environment, and are not too scattered to be detected by the time they reach the Earth".

One member of the team, Dr Cherry Ng, says the latest FRBs could be coming from "some sort of dense clump like a supernova [exploding star] remnant". Some scientists suspect that these radio waves originate from black hole activity or solar flares that travel from billions of light-years away. "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".

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