Scientists discover mysterious radio signals from distant galaxy. What are they?

  • Scientists discover mysterious radio signals from distant galaxy. What are they?

Scientists discover mysterious radio signals from distant galaxy. What are they?

Far outside our Milky Way galaxy, something is causing repeating short bursts of radio waves to be released into space.

So far, scientists have detected about 60 single fast radio bursts and two that repeat. The Canadian astronomers say they've found a second repeating signal that is distinct from the first one.

But, until this most recent work, only one repeating FRB, known as FRB 121102, had been observed.

The fast radio bursts, named FRBs, were discovered by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) team in British Columbia, Canada.

Stairs said that with CHIME, "mapping the entire northern hemisphere every day, we're bound to find more repeaters over time".

An event like this has only been reported once before after it was picked up by different telescope. CHIME can only record signals between 400 MHz and 800 MHz. Dozens of mysterious radio signals have been noted by scientists with telescopes being used all over the world to track its source. 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.

The flashes last only for a millisecond but they are ejected with the same level of energy the sun takes 12 months to produce. The scattering details suggest there is something unique about structural characteristics of FRB sources.

There are even farfetched explanations that say FRBs are radio pulses of extreme energy that are created when a black hole explodes. "But it has to be in some special place to give us all the scattering that we see".

And although this new detection doesn't solve the biggest mysteries surrounding the radio bursts, the researchers who recorded it believe that other repeating fast radio bursts will be found - which could allow them to figure out where they originate.

"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. The new signal is known as FRB 180814.J0422+73.

He added: "That tells us something about the environments and the sources".

While most believe that astrophysical phenomena like black holes or neutron stars produce the FRBs, some also suggest that they are produced by aliens, which is of course a rather outlandish theory.

"We're very excited to see what CHIME can do when it's running at full capacity", Deborah Good, a PhD student in physics and astronomy at UBC, said. 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.

Another interesting point to keep in mind, according to Loeb, is that the first repeater exhibited an associated persistent radio source, whereas the new repeater did not.