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Astronomers detect mysterious repeated radio signal from faraway galaxy for second time

11 January 2019
Astronomers detect mysterious repeated radio signal from faraway galaxy for second time

A Canadian-led team of scientists has found the second repeating fast radio burst (FRB) ever recorded.

Another clue is that of the 13 FRBs detected by CHIME, the majority of them showed signs of scattering, which is caused by the "different rays of light from the fast radio burst taking a slightly different path because of some material in-between the fast radio burst and the telescope", Pleunis said.

FRBs are short bursts of radio waves originating from far outside of our galaxy, according to a press release about the discovery by McGill University.

One hypothesis is that powerful astrophysical phenomena are causing them. They could be the result of magnetars, or rapidly spinning neutron stars that have been strongly magnetized.

But, until this most recent work, only one repeating FRB, known as FRB 121102, had been observed.

"The nature of fast radio bursts is still unknown, but the potential options for what astrophysical phenomena and environments could produce such bright, fast bursts across such a broad radio band continues to narrow as we discover more sources", Newburgh said. The telescope scans the northern sky daily. Fast radio bursts might actually be common - it's just that we're only just noticing them.

The research has now been published in the journal Nature. The astronomers detected six repeat bursts from this single source, all originating from the same location in space.

The FRBs are thought to have come from a neutron star moving through "an extremely powerful magnetic field" and a report in IFLScience quotes Cherry Ng, an astronomer at the University of Toronto, who suggests the signals were created in a "dense clump like a supernova remnant. This tells us more about the properties of repeaters as a population", said Shriharsh Tendulkar of McGill University, Canada.

"We have discovered a second repeater and its properties are very similar to the first repeater". Some scientists had anxious that the range of frequencies it can pick up would be too low for it to receive the FRBs - but it found far more than expected, and scientists expect it to identify even more. "New racks of compute nodes were being installed and the number of nodes operating, and hence beams on sky, varied from day to day", its scientists say.

"Now we know that FRBs are detectable at 400 MHz, and should be detectable at even lower frequencies", Tendulkar said. Dwindling funds from the US government and construction of bigger, more powerful telescopes are threatening this telescope's future.

The last time they were detected was in 2007, when one was spotted by chance in radio astronomy data that had been collected in 2001.

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.

"But we should also avoid a knee-jerk reaction to such discoveries - it 'can't be aliens, therefore is isn't'".