Published: Sat, January 12, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

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

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

Scientists have detected the second repeating fast radio burst (FRB) ever recorded, a discovery that may help determine the origin of these mysterious signals which have been linked with advanced alien technology in the past. However, a new facility in Canada called CHIME has added a new piece to the puzzle by detecting a second source of repeat fast radio bursts, as well as multiple instances of single FRBs.

The telescope only got up and running a year ago, detecting 13 of the radio bursts nearly immediately, including the repeater.

To detect the new fast radio bursts, scientists used results from the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME), a powerful, revolutionary radio telescope which was completed in late 2017, and was developed in collaboration with scientists Kiyoshi Masui, an assistant professor of physics at MIT and Juan Mena Parra, a Kavli postdoc. This suggests that there are FRBs with even lower frequencies likely zipping past our planet all the time - we just aren't able to see them yet.

The fast radio bursts suggest there could be more out there, researchers say. According to two new papers published today (Jan. 9) in the journal Nature, scientists working at the CHIME (Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment) radio telescope in the hills of British Columbia have detected 13 new FRBs in just a two-month span.

Scientists believe there could be up to a thousand FRBs in the sky every day. Most of the bursts that scientists detect come from a spot in space that never produces another such signal. Previous studies have suggested that FRBs may be the remnants of distant supernovas, or radiation spewed out by supermassive black holes. Theories on the source of FRBs range from a rapidly rotating neutron star, to a black hole, or even extraterrestrial intelligence.

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"[We now know] the sources can produce low-frequency radio waves and those low-frequency waves can escape their environment, and are not too scattered to be detected by the time they reach the Earth", he said.

The other institutions with leading roles are the University of Toronto, the National Research Council of Canada, and the Perimeter Institute.

"Until now, there was only one known repeating FRB. But intelligent life is not on the minds of any astronomer as a source of these FRBs", he said.

Now, detection of a second repeating FRB confirms that the first instance of a repeating FRB was not a freak event. "So explaining their nature has become one of the biggest unsolved problems in astrophysics in the last few years". "We would also like to study the properties of whole populations of FRBs and try to see if there are different sources that give rise to repeaters and non-repeaters". One of the most recent FRBs contained roughly 25 million times more energy than our star.

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