Published: Fri, January 11, 2019
Sci-tech | By Jackie Newman

Scientists Detect Second Ever Repeating Fast Radio Burst Among Bakers' Dozen

Scientists Detect Second Ever Repeating Fast Radio Burst Among Bakers' Dozen

Knowing where they are, she furthered, "will enable scientists to point their telescopes at them, creating an opportunity to study these mysterious signals in detail".

FRBs are short bursts of radio waves coming from far outside our Milky Way galaxy and scientists believe FRBs come out from powerful astrophysical phenomena billions of light years away.

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.

While a bunch of FRBs have been detected previously, this is only the second time one's been observed to repeat itself.

FRBs tend to be fleeting events, but a repeating FRB, named FRB 1211012, was detected by Puerto Rico's Arecibo radio telescope in 2012.

"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.

Shriharsh Tendulkar, an astronomer from the McGill Space Institute and a co-author of the new study, said radio frequencies help scientists understand possible emission mechanisms, or processes, of FRBs, and also the effects that the radio waves encounter as they travel through space. A total of 13 fast radio bursts were observed, but six of them were of particular interest: they all came from the same location.

This work was published today (Jan 9) in a set of papers in Nature.

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Indian origin astronomers and other boffins have come across repeating energy bursts from a single source from deep space for the second time in history. The first repeating fast radio burst was recorded at a frequency of 700 megahertz, but some of the bursts CHIME recorded were as low as 400 megahertz.

He added: "That tells us something about the environments and the sources".

The search for FRBs has a simple motivation: so far, we have too few observations to settle on a cause for the phenomenon. "CHIME reconstructs the image of the overhead sky by processing the radio signals recorded by thousands of antennas with a large signal processing system", explains Perimeter Institute's Kendrick Smith. CHIME identified a fast radio burst with the lowest dispersion yet discovered, suggesting its source is the closest to Earth.

A number of speculations have been made about what could be causing the radio bursts - with theories ranging from stars exploding to alien life, however, currently, there is little evidence to prove either.

But it was so temporary and seemingly random that it took years for astronomers to agree it wasn't a glitch in one of the telescope's instruments.

The CHIME observatory in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Canada.

"The findings are just the beginning of CHIME's discoveries", said Stairs."In the next phase, we plan to capture the full high-resolution data stream from the brightest bursts, which will let us better understand their positions, characteristics and magnetic environments".

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