Research

Astronomers Detect Mysterious Radio Signals From Deep Space

Astronomers Detect Mysterious Radio Signals From Deep Space

But only one burst has ever been traced back to its source: a repeating burst called FRB 121102, which flickers periodically from a dim dwarf galaxy 3 billion light-years away.

"With fast radio bursts, it's always felt like the more answers we get, the more questions we have", said Sarah Burke-Spolaor, an astrophysicist at West Virginia University who was not involved in the new research. And the existence of a second repeater means 2012's was not a fluke or an instrument error - something is producing these repeating bursts of light, and it's clearly fixed in place over long periods of time.

Some scientists have speculated that the sources of FRBs might be rotating neutron stars with extremely strong magnetic fields, or even super-advanced radio beacons operated by extraterrestrial civilizations.

While FRB 112102 repeated itself once, this new signal repeated itself six times, the study says.

The CHIME telescope found, as phrased by Nature.com, "the second known FRB that repeats, meaning that the radio flashes re-appear at the same point in the sky".

"But exactly what physics is going into producing this very energetic burst of radio waves we don't really know yet".

"And with more repeaters and more sources available for study, we may be able to understand these cosmic puzzles - where they're from and what causes them", he said.

The majority of the 13 FRBs detected showed signs of 'scattering, ' a phenomenon that reveals information about the environment surrounding a source of radio waves.

This repetitive FRB is the second of its kind to ever be discovered - the first was found in 2015.

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"Whatever the source of these radio waves is, it's interesting to see how wide a range of frequencies it can produce", said CHIME scientist Arun Naidu of McGill University.

The low frequency of this new detection could mean that the source of the bursts differ.

The CHIME observatory in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Canada.

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.

Emily Petroff, an astronomer from ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, and an expert on FRBs, thought the methods "were particularly good" in these papers, and she liked how the CHIME astronomers didn't "over-interpret the data from shaky calibration".

The other institutions with leading roles are the University of Toronto, the National Research Council of Canada, and the Perimeter Institute.

"It's a cataclysmic event - it doesn't work for fast radio burst repeaters", he says.

To which he added: "CHIME is the most prolific FRB hunter in the world and we are looking forward to sharing new results in the upcoming months".

"This tells us more about the properties of repeaters as a population".