Radio Signals Detected From Outer Space

Cristina Cross
January 12, 2019

FRBs are short bursts of radio waves originating from far outside of our galaxy, according to a press release about the discovery by McGill University.

"At the end of the year, we may have found 1,000 bursts", said Deborah Good, a PhD student at the University of British Columbia and one of 50 scientists from five institutions involved in the research.

The new discovery was made using the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (Chime), in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley.

"We built this instrument specifically to try and detect these fast radio bursts, and we were still in our pre-commissioning phase, running with only partial sensitivity and taking the system up and down every day or so, and yet we still detected these 13 bursts, pretty much when we turned the instrument on".

"Until now, there was only one known repeating FRB".

What corner of the universe these powerful waves come from and the forces that produced them remain unknown.

The BBC reports that there are a number of theories about what could be causing the bursts.

But consecutive radio bursts are a special case.

That has led to speculation they could be coming from a huge undiscovered star, jets emerging from a black hole - or even an artificial source such as alien life.

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Theories range from highly magnetized neutron stars blasted by gas streams from a nearby supermassive black hole, to signatures of technology developed by an advanced civilisation.

The CHIME researchers are working with an array of antennas in central New Mexico to pin down the galaxy to which the second repeater belongs. The radio bursts were observed by CHIME at frequencies between 400 megahertz (MHz) and 800 MHz. "So explaining their nature has become one of the biggest unsolved problems in astrophysics in the last few years".

Having two sets of repeating bursts could also allow scientists to understand what distinguishes them from single bursts, helping them understand more about their source and watch for future blasts.

But the things here are still the same mysterious as they had been before but there somehow are basic evidences which gives the idea about from where such explosions might have been coming from. "Our data will break open some of the mysteries of [the bursts]".

"That could mean in some sort of dense clump like a supernova remnant", Cherry Ng, an astronomer at the University of Toronto, told the news outlet. That suggests there might be even more of them, too low to be picked up by CHIME.

The last time they were detected was in 2007, when one was spotted by chance in radio astronomy data that had been collected in 2001.

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.

Tom Landecker, CHIME team member from the National Research Council of Canada.

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