Scientists in Okanagan Valley detect radio bursts from distant galaxy

An artist's conception of a type of neutron star called a magnetar

An artist's conception of a type of neutron star called a magnetar

However, the source of these signals, originating from far outside our Milky Way galaxy, is not well understood.

It's theorized these FRBs could be created by strongly magnetized, rapidly spinning neutron stars called magnetars.

Since their discovery more than a decade ago, 60-plus bursts, each named for its date of detection, have been observed by five telescopes worldwide.

The research has now been published in the journal Nature.

They spotted the bursts in a two-week period.

CHIME is a collaboration of over 50 scientists led by the University of British Columbia, McGill University, University of Toronto, and the National Research Council of Canada (NRC).

"We have more ideas of what they could be than we have actual detected fast radio bursts", Dustin Lang, a computational scientist with Ontario's Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics whose software helped detect the FRBs, said in a video released by the Institute on Wednesday. Before CHIME, astronomers noted that most of the previously detected bursts had frequencies around 1,400 MHz, and some wondered whether CHIME would detect any bursts at all in its range of 400 to 800 MHz.

The majority of FRBs identified prior to CHIME's observations featured high frequencies, signals close to 1400 MHz.

But consecutive radio bursts are a special case.

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

Constructed in British Columbia, CHIME is composed of four, 100-meter long half-pipe cylinders of metal mesh, which reconstruct images of the sky by processing the radio signals recorded by more than a thousand antennas. These interactions, said Tendulkar, can cause absorption, scattering, and many other effects on the radio waves. A repeating FRB, however, provides more opportunities for scientists to learn about these radio bursts and where they come from. It's easier, therefore, to measure and understand these effects at lower frequencies. "But intelligent life is not on the minds of any astronomer as a source of these FRBs", he said.

The only other known repeated radio burst was captured in 2012 and originated in a galaxy 2.5 billion light-years away from Earth, Nature reported.

The first FRB was discovered in 2007, although it was actually observed some six years earlier, in archival data from a pulsar survey of the Magellanic Clouds.

Petroff said she wasn't surprised the CHIME astronomers found another repeating FRB, but she was surprised they found it so soon. It was beginning to look like the lone example, FRB 121102, might be a freak object, but this suggests that it may simply be rare. CHIME scans the entirety of the Northern Hemisphere every day and is expected to pick up dozens of FRBs per month when operating at full capacity. While it was waiting to come fully online, it picked up these 13 FRBs.

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

The mysterious radio energy flashes, whose source is yet to be discovered, have left astronomers baffled.

Tendulkar told Gizmodo that there's still plenty of work to be done, both in terms of detecting and characterising FRBs.

But they have remained entirely mysterious, with little evidence at all of where they might be coming from. "But it has to be in some special place tog I've us all the scattering that we see".

"At the end of a year we may have found 1,000 more bursts".

Fantastic - we're very much looking forward to that as well.

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