Scientists detect mysterious radio signals in space

Pablo Tucker
January 10, 2019

A repeating fast radio burst (FRB) has been detected by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME), a new radio telescope. "They have yet to see FRBs, but there's a good chance that they will get to see them". Whatever the photons pass through, that interaction is recorded in the radio waves and can be "translated" after it's received by the telescope. Scientists are still debating whether repeating FRBs come from the same source as the one-time flashes, or instead represent a distinct type of event. Most of the FRBs previously detected had been found at frequencies near 1,400 megahertz, well above the Canadian telescope's range of 400 megahertz to 800 megahertz.

"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.

A blitzar is a rapidly spinning neutron star which collapses under its own weight and forms a black hole.

Tom Landecker, CHIME team member from the National Research Council of Canada. "In principle, there might be two separate types of sources, as in the case of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), where long-duration GRBs (lasting more than a few seconds) are linked to the collapse of massive stars and short-duration GRBs are linked to mergers of neutrons stars".

"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.

Fast radio bursts have been speculated to be the result of everything from exploding stars to transmissions from aliens.

Astronomers in Canada have detected a mysterious volley of radio waves from far outside our galaxy, according to two studies published Wednesday in Nature. "It could be a start to a whole new field in astronomy".

It's within the realm of possibility, he said, that there are several types of FRB, each created by a different kind of celestial cataclysm.

"I think that bodes very well for all the FRB searches coming online in the near future", she told Gizmodo. "Now we're showing, no, at least one other repeats".

The discovery is a sign that there could be even more repeating FRBs out there waiting to be found - and maybe even an answer to the mystery of their source. "In the next phase, we plan to capture the full high-resolution data stream from the brightest bursts, which will let us better understand their positions, characteristics and magnetic environments". A second source of repeating fast radio bursts. Excitingly, it bears striking similarities to the first repeating FRB.

As technology improves and instruments used to study the cosmos become more and more advanced, we're answering a lot of questions about our place in the universe, but we're also coming up with entirely new ones.

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