Mysterious repeating radio signal is detected from far outside our galaxy

Christopher Davidson
January 12, 2019

What's remarkable is they're just getting started.

Scientists at the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research are part of a team that has discovered 13 fast radio bursts (FRBs), as well as the second repeating FRB ever recorded, using a revolutionary radio telescope.

Rather, these are millisecond-long notes of radio pulses, called "fast radio bursts" or FRBs.

National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) radio dishes of the Very Large Array near Socorro, New Mexico, is where the 2012 FRB was documented. Yet, their origin remains unknown to scientists.

The findings were presented during a meeting held by the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, Wash., on Thursday.

Challenges: Close to 5,000 FRBs appear every day. Some of the proposed candidates for FRB sources are magnetars (neutron stars with strong magnetic fields), merging neutron stars, and (among the fringe) undiscovered alien civilizations. "Knowing that there is another suggests that there could be more out there", said Ingrid Stairs, a member of the CHIME team. One of the newly-detected events is the second known example of a repeating FRB.

Even though FRBs were detected in 2007, it was only in 2015 that the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico detected such repeating radio waves. One other detail that needs to be considered would be that those bursts were collected at the lowest frequencies yet (400MHz to 800MHz). CHIME is created to detect FRBs within the 400 to 800 MHz range.

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According to Good, CHIME - in July/August 2018 - also detected the lowest-frequency FRB with the wavelength of 400 megahertz.

"These things belch out tens of millions of times as much energy as the sun would belch out in a similar length of time, so whatever it is, it is something very, very powerful", he told radio station KCBS. FRBs last for just a few milliseconds, and their unpredictable displays make observations notoriously hard.

The amount of scattering observed by CHIME suggests these flares originate in powerful astrophysical objects, likely to be in locations with "special characteristics".

An artist impression of the outer casing of a neutron star. Pearlman shared the stage with the CHIME researchers at today's AAS news conference.

Astrophysicists detailed the data recorded by CHIME in two different papers published this week in the journal Nature.

"[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", said Tom Landecker, a CHIME team member. There have been some fast radio bursts which are found to be speculated for the results of everything that could have been got through the transition of such exploding stars from the side of aliens.

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