Telescope detects mysterious radio signals from galaxy 1.5 billion light years away

Credit PA

Credit PA

The researchers said that studying the fast radio bursts is a hard task because they're rare and only occur once.

This new repeating fast radio burst is called FRB 180814.J0422+73 and was recorded six times coming from the same location, 1.5 billion light-years away. The team that made the discovery is from McGill University.

These discoveries are among the first, eagerly awaited results from the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME), a revolutionary radio telescope inaugurated in late 2017 by a collaboration of scientists that includes MIT's Kiyoshi Masui, an assistant professor of physics, and Juan Mena Parra, a Kavli postdoc. Prior to this, only 50 FRBs had ever been observed by humans, only one of which was a repeater.

Canada's CHIME radio telescope detected 13 fast radio bursts, known as FRBs.

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

Fortunately, researchers expect to know more about them sooner than previously expected thanks to technological advancements, particularly with the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) telescope, which is touted as one of the most powerful radio telescopes in the world.

In a Nature paper published Wednesday, it was revealed that the CHIME telescope, located near Penticton, B.C., had detected more than a dozen fast radio bursts, or FRBs.

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

The mystery stems from the fact it is not known what could produce such a short and sharp burst.

This is the second time an intercepted radio signal has ever repeated, which scientists believe could provide clues to uncover its origin. Several weeks ago, however, 13 new bursts were detected within two months. Avi Loeb, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who was not involved in the study, suggests the pulses could be "artificially produced".

This intervening material blurs the signal from the cosmic microwave background (CMB), the left over radiation from the Big Bang. It was originally created to explore the early universe, but it has now become the ideal instrument to detect FRBs.

One of the astronomers involved in the discovery, Deborah Good, said to Nature that they do not have almost enough data to even begin explaining what makes FRBs.

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

And if CHIME was able to make these detections before it was even fully up and running, the researchers are hopeful that the new radio telescope will help them find answers about these mysterious signals.

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