Repeating Radio Waves From Deep Space Intrigue Scientists

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

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

Though we're guessing this wasn't E.T. trying to phone home, scientists in the Okanagan Valley have detected a repeating radio signal that they believe are emanating from a galaxy 1.5 billion light-years away.

The first rapid burst that repeated was named FRB 121102 and was detected by Arecibo radio telescope in 2015.

More likely, CHIME's Shiryash Tendulkar says, is the possibility that they come from a "very strongly magnetized, rapidly spinning neutron star called a millisecond magnetar".

The group used the CHIME telescope to process the signals.

"At the end of the year, we may have found 1,000 bursts", said Deborah Good, a PhD student at the University of British Columbia and one of 50 scientists from five institutions involved in the research.

In 2017 Professor Loeb and Harvard colleague Manasvi Lingham proposed that FRBs could be leakage from planet-sized alien transmitters.

A member the team Dr Cherry Ng from the University of Toronto in Canada said: "That could mean in some sort of dense clump like a supernova remnant". The discovery of a repeater was a huge deal because it meant that the source of this particular FRB, and possibly others, wasn't the result of a cataclysmic explosion, but rather something that persists through time.

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"With CHIME mapping the entire northern hemisphere every day, we're bound to find more repeaters over time", Stairs said.

Although scientists have some theories about what causes the so-called repeating fast radio bursts (FRBs) and their origin, exact details are still unknown.

Artist's impression of the active galactic nucleus shows the supermassive black hole at the center of the accretion disk sending a narrow high-energy jet of matter into space, perpendicular to the disc in this image by Science Communication Lab in Kiel Germany, released on July 12, 2018. The new signal is known as FRB 180814.J0422+73.

The new discovery, reported in the journal Nature, was made by a Canadian-led team of astronomers on the hunt for FRBs.

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

Repeating FRBs may be a rare finding, but they're even stranger than their single counterparts.

What they do know is that the "frequency of the radio waves helps us to figure out what produces the bursts and how the environment of the bursts look like", Pleunis said, adding that the frequency relates to the intensity of the light that's being emitted from the source and the size of its magnetic field. While interesting, these new observations, he said, can not tell us about the nature of these sources-at least not yet. "But it has to be in some special place to give us all the scattering that we see".

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