Astronomers detect more mystery radio bursts from beyond the Milky Way

Katie Ramirez
January 11, 2019

For just the second time, scientists have recorded the repeat of a mysterious cosmic flash know as a fast radio burst (FRB).

Scientists have reported to have seen the new bursts release six times from the same location - in the past only one has ever been repeated. CHIME is created to detect FRBs within the 400 to 800 MHz range.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia in Canada said they've discovered the second so-called "repeating fast radio burst" (FRB) ever recorded, according to a news release published January 9.

Professor Avi Loeb, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics in the U.S., has previously said that FRBs could potentally be evidence of advanced alien technology.

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

Repeating FRBs are even more rare, with the first, labeled FRB 112102, detected in 2007 following a review of telescope data that had been collected in 2001.

This repeating FRB is one of thirteen (the rest are single bursts) announced today by scientists.

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NASA research scientist Dr Jessie Christiansen said "astronomers are super excited to find out more, but generally do not think it is extraterrestrial". "Scattering" was detected in the fast radio bursts, which is a phenomenon that helps determine more about the environment surrounding the origin.

"One of those 13 fast radio bursts that we found is a repeating burst, it has shown up on many days since those initial observations, and this is only the second repeating fast radio burst ever found", Stairs explains.

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.

As for the new repeater, it's called FRB 180814.J0422+73.

The astrophysical mysteries are thought to originate from far outside our Milky Way, but their source remains unclear.

The CHIME team's results - published January 9 in two papers in Nature and presented the same day at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle - settled these doubts, with the majority of the 13 bursts being recorded well down to the lowest frequencies in CHIME's range. Seven of those were measured at the lowest frequency yet detected, suggesting that there could be even more of them at frequencies too low to measure. They are also dispersed - high frequency wavelengths arrive earlier than lower-frequency ones - which suggest that they travel long distances across vast expanses of space to reach astronomers' radio dishes. If scientists can figure out how FRBs ought to look when they leave their sources, they may be able to probe the intergalactic medium by studying the way the signals change. "Instead it uses digital signal processing to "point" the telescope and reconstruct where the radio waves are coming from", says Masui.

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

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