Published: Thu, January 10, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Mysterious repeating radio signal is detected from far outside our galaxy

Mysterious repeating radio signal is detected from far outside our galaxy

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.

In October researchers used a radio telescope in Australia to almost double the number of known fast radio bursts.

"Seeing these bursts with CHIME will give us a good idea about what FRBs are like and where they come from, by showing us more about how their brightness changes at different frequencies and what's happening to the signal on its way to Earth", she added.

Scientists have scores of theories about what might create such stupendous signals - spinning cores of collapsed stars, powerful magnetic fields around black holes, the fog of dust and gas from which new stars form.

CHIME, which is short for Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, is a type of interferometric radio telescope featuring half-cylinder dishes that observe the same section of sky every day.

Additional bursts from the repeating FRB were detected in following weeks by the telescope, which is located in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley. But for only the second time, they have now found one that repeats itself, making it more likely that we might find out where they come from. Knowing that there is another suggests that there could be more out there.

Most of the FRBs showed signs of "scattering" that suggest their sources could be powerful astrophysical objects in locations with special characteristics, the scientists said.

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Interestingly, astrophysicist Emily Petroff, the first person to identify a FRB in real time, pointed out the similarities between the new "repeater" and the only other one to have been discovered.

"That could mean in some sort of dense clump of supernova remnant", Cherry Ng, a member of the CHIME team and an astronomer at the University of Toronto, said.

Shriharsh Tendulkar, an astronomer from the McGill Space Institute and a co-author of the new study, said radio frequencies help scientists understand possible emission mechanisms, or processes, of FRBs, and also the effects that the radio waves encounter as they travel through space.

"At this point we simply don't know what is causing [FRBs]", space writer Paul Scott Anderson said. Observations of fast radio bursts at frequencies down to 400 megahertz.

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.

Take a deep breath, because here come some breathtaking numbers from the CHIME arXiv paper: "The computational challenge of the CHIME/FRB search is huge: The input data rate is 1.5PB/day, and the dedispersion transform computes 10 SNR values per second (total for all beams)". Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb told Gizmodo that the reported results are "trustworthy and solid". "We haven't solved the problem, but it's several more pieces in the puzzle".

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