Research

Repeating, mysterious fast radio burst in deep space is truly odd

Repeating, mysterious fast radio burst in deep space is truly odd

"We have tantalizing clues, but it's hard to make definitive conclusions,"astronomer Shriharsh Tendulkar of McGill University in Montreal, a member of the CHIME team, told Science News". "When the first repeater was found, we didn't know if that was a unique object in the universe or if there was a class of these things, or if maybe all of the fast radio bursts actually were repeated, but numerous bursts were too faint for our telescopes to pick up".

Astronomers have revealed that a telescope in Canada has picked up mysterious repeating signals emanating from a galaxy 1.5 billion light years away, BBC reported on Wednesday.

Publishing its findings to two different papers in Nature (here and here), the team said this latest repeating FRB was one of 13 new bursts detected in the space of just two weeks in the summer of 2018. It could be anything, the astronomers say, from a natural, yet unknown, process in the Universe to messages coming from extraterrestrial civilizations.

"Different emission mechanisms expect that FRBs will be emitted within a certain range of radio frequencies, much like a light bulb can not emit X-rays or a microwave oven can not emit ultraviolet light", Tendulkar told Gizmodo. They come from collapsing stars, magnetic fields, or voracious black holes. Maybe something at the centers of galaxies is falling into a supermassive black hole just right.

Over time, Stairs says researchers will hopefully be able to develop a "clearer picture" that could lead to figuring out what exactly is producing these radio waves.

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.

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"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. And when there are increased sources and more repeaters for the objective of conducting a study, the cosmic puzzles would become easier for them to have better understanding and it would then be clear that what the actual source of those blasts was. In some of the 13 cases, the signal at the lower end of the band was so bright that it seems likely other FRBs will be detected at frequencies even lower than CHIME's minimum of 400 MHz.

The two sets of repeating bursts would help scientists understand what distinguishes repeating signals from single bursts, their source, and also watch out for future radio bursts.

A group of scientists from the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research participated in research which was found to discover new fast radio bursts. It was reportedly a very unusual repeating signal, coming from the same source, approximately 1.5 billion light years away.

But, from whatever little data exists, most scientists do not believe that FRBs are attempts by aliens to contact us. "But it has to be in some special place to give us all the scattering that we see", said Ng.

FRBs are similar to pulsars, small and rapidly rotating, dense stars that emit signals as they rotate, sort of like a cosmic lighthouse.