Astronomers intercept mysterious repeating radio signals from space

Mindy Sparks
January 10, 2019

"We would like to know what kinds of objects these are and how they are related to other explosions and objects that we know of (gamma-ray bursts, supernovae, neutron stars etc)", Tendulkar said.

This is the second time an intercepted radio signal has ever repeated, which scientists believe could provide clues to uncover its origin.

But, until this most recent work, only one repeating FRB, known as FRB 121102, had been observed. Astronomers have grappled with this mystery for years because, while they continue to observe bursts, they are still unsure of what causes them.

"Knowing that there is another suggests that there could be more out there", said Ingrid Stairs, a member of the CHIME team and an astrophysicist at the University of British Columbia.

The repeater, known as FRB 180814.J0422+73, is located about 1.5 billion light-years from Earth, astronomers told Space.com. Excitingly, it bears striking similarities to the first repeating FRB.

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.

The telescope processes radio signals recorded by thousands of atennas with a large signal processing system and is the largest of any on earth.

The 13 radio bursts were picked up by a telescope at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in Canada.


"We have discovered a second repeater and its properties are very similar to the first repeater".

The radio waves were detected by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME), the world's most powerful radio telescope, spread across an area as big as a football pitch.

"We're very excited to see what CHIME can do when it's running at full capacity", said Deborah Good, a PhD student in physics and astronomy at UBC who is part of CHIME's FRB team. "We haven't solved the problem, but it's several more pieces in the puzzle".

In all the researchers spotted some 13 of the bursts in just a three week period, offering a vast new trove of data for the scientists hunting for their source.

Another interesting twist has to do with the radio frequencies of the newly detected bursts. "There are some models where intrinsically the source can't produce anything below a certain frequency", team member Arun Naidu of McGill University said in a statement.

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.

At distances of billions of light years it's obviously very hard to test any of these theories, but detecting more FRBs, especially those that have a habit of repeating, could bring us closer to an explanation.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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