Published: Sun, January 13, 2019
Science | By Cecil Little

Unusual repeating signals from the universe found for the second time

Unusual repeating signals from the universe found for the second time

For only the second time, researchers have found a fast radio burst source that repeats its signal.

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.

For the second time in history, astronomers have detected a repeating fast radio burst (FRB) originating from outside the Milky Way. The team that made the discovery is from McGill University.

Intensity Mapping Experiment radio telescope known as CHIME
CHIME Collaboration The Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment radio telescope known as CHIME

The telescope was launched past year, detecting 13 of the radio bursts nearly immediately, including the repeater that was detected today.

Because it bursts again and again - with periods of what seem like quiescence in between - astronomers have been able to catch it in the act, and trace it to its source, a galaxy about 3 billion light-years away.

Professor Ingrid Stairs, an astrophysicist at British Columbia University in Canada, said: "The bursts are estimated to originate from a distance of around 1.5 billion light years - approximately half the distance of the other repeating burst, FRB 121102". "With more repeaters and more sources available to study, we may be able to understand these cosmic puzzles". Some have suggested that it may be remnants of distant supernovae (exploding stars) or radiation emitted by supermassive black holes feeding on them. "But it has to be in some special place tog I've us all the scattering that we see".

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There are a number of theories about what's causing FRBs, including the possibility that a neutron star is releasing powerful signals after it exploded or even, albeit held by only a small minority, that they're signals from an alien civilization.

Scientists believe there could be up to a thousand FRBs in the sky every day. Most probably these bursts are the most exciting to the scientists who have now been repeated for six times and nearly all seems to be exploded from the similar locations.

Of more than 60 FRBs detected to date, such repeating bursts have only been picked up once before, by the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico in 2015.

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Professor Avi Loeb, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics in the USA, has previously said that FRBs could potentally be evidence of advanced alien technology.

For now, all we have is two repeating sources and several dozen outliers-but at least it's a good start. The new observations suggest FRBs are common at lower frequencies.

The "scattering" phenomenon was detected in the radio bursts, which can help answer questions about the atmosphere surrounding the origin. It appears at a wavelength of 400 megahertz, far lower than the previous record of 700 megahertz.

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