Scientists discover mysterious repeating radio signal from deep space

Canadian scientists have detected 13 new fast radio bursts, those mysterious, split-second, high-energy pulses that reach us from unknown origins billions of light-years away. The radio burst, which repeated its signal six times, was detected among 13 other so-called Fast Radio Bursts, or FRBs, in July and August of a year ago.

The source of these emissions is still unclear, however - and some suggest they could be from extraterrestrials.

"Most of the, sort of, reasonable theories involve a neutron star, or possibly a black hole", she explains.

In two papers published today in Nature and presented the same day at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle, the researchers present data from the 13 bursts while CHIME was in its precommissioning phase and running at only a fraction of its full capacity. Until now, there had only been one repeating fast radio burst - this provides valuable data.

"When the first repeater was found, we didn't know if that was a unique object in the universe or if there was a class of these things, or if maybe all of the fast radio bursts actually were repeated, but numerous bursts were too faint for our telescopes to pick up".

"With fast radio bursts, it's always felt like the more answers we get, the more questions we have", said Sarah Burke-Spolaor, an astrophysicist at West Virginia University who was not involved in the new research. "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.

CHIME is useful for the FRB search as it's a static instrument that relies on the Earth's rotation to sweep its view across the sky and this allowed its designers to build an instrument much larger than can easily be achieved with a swiveling dish design.

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Kaspi said CHIME quickly detected a source that sent out a series of six fast radio bursts.

Of the 13 new blasts that were picked up, at least seven of them were recorded at 400 MHz - the lowest frequency of any yet discovered.

CHIME (Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment) also spotted a dozen single burst radio waves, but with an unusual profile. "By detecting and characterising fast radio bursts at different frequencies, we can better understand which theories work and which do not".

Responding to the news, one excited astronomer replied: "That means there is something out there". "We haven't solved the problem, but it's several more pieces in the puzzle", says Tom Landecker, a CHIME team member from the National Research Council of Canada.

Stairs added: "Knowing where they are will enable scientists to point their telescopes at them, creating an opportunity to study these mysterious signals in detail". Cherry Ng, an astronomer at the University of Toronto.

Good said that "if we had 1,000 examples, we would be able to say many more things about what FRBs are like". "The fact that we found a second one just like that in a way implies that there could be lots more out there".

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