Radio Signals From A Galaxy Light Years Away Have Been Reported

Cristina Cross
January 10, 2019

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.

The FRBs were detected first by accident in 2007 as a burst signal in radio astronomy data collected in 2001 was spotted.

They only last a few milliseconds before disappearing and come from distance places in the known universe.

Where the FRBs come from is not known - although they are thought to emanate from sources billions of light years away outside our galaxy, the Milky Way.

The discoveries, described in two papers in Nature, were presented at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle. "I think we are just drawn to anything unknown".

She added that with the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) telescope "mapping the entire northern hemisphere every day, we're bound to find more repeaters over time". The $16-million investment for CHIME was provided by the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the governments of British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec, with additional funding from the Dunlap Institute, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. 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.

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The stunning rate at which CHIME detected the FRBs is due to its revolutionary design. Some scientists had anxious that the range of frequencies it can pick up would be too low for it to receive the FRBs - but it found far more than expected, and scientists expect it to identify even more. "This tells us more about the properties of repeaters as a population", said Shriharsh Tendulkar of McGill University, Canada.

"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.

It's only the second time scientists have detected such a consecutive radio burst, reports the BBC. "It is still an early field though, so it is hard to put concrete constraints on the theories, but our work is a new step in that direction". These interactions, said Tendulkar, can cause absorption, scattering, and many other effects on the radio waves. CHIME measures scattering more precisely than other instruments because it operates at lower frequencies.

'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'. The new signal is known as FRB 180814.J0422+73. The astronomers detected six repeat bursts from this single source, all originating from the same location in 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.

Since FRBs occur so quickly, studying them and identifying the source is hard.

The most likely explanation is that they were created by powerful objects in space.

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