Alien contact? Mysteriously repeating radio signals captured by Canadian telescope

The uniquely shaped CHIME telescope in British Columbia

Mysterious repeated blasts of radio signals tracked from deep space have been detected by Canadian astronomers.

They only last a few milliseconds before disappearing and come from distance places in the known universe. But only one burst has ever been traced back to its source: a repeating burst called FRB 121102, which flickers periodically from a dim dwarf galaxy 3 billion light-years away.

The majority of the 13 FRBs detected showed signs of 'scattering, ' a phenomenon that reveals information about the environment surrounding a source of radio waves. But Kaspi said the FRB signals were strong all the way down to the lowest frequency CHIME could detect.

The research has now been published in the journal Nature.

The signals consist of 13 fast radio bursts, known as "FRBs".

The new FRBs were detected by the brand new CHIME instrument, or Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, located in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia.

The CHIME team, which designed and built the telescope, includes 14 scientists from the University of B.C. alongside others from McGill University, the University of Toronto, the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and the National Research Council of Canada. "There are some models where intrinsically the source can't produce anything below a certain frequency", said Arun Naidu of McGill University in Canada, who was part of the team that detected the signal. Whatever the photons pass through, that interaction is recorded in the radio waves and can be "translated" after it's received by the telescope.

"It is extremely, extremely unlikely", Tendulkar said. That suggests there might be even more of them, too low to be picked up by CHIME. It's easier, therefore, to measure and understand these effects at lower frequencies. Now, a new FRB is getting some serious attention for a very specific reason.

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But consecutive radio bursts are a special case.

"Until now, there was only one known repeating FRB", said Dr. Ingrid Stairs, a member of the CHIME team and an astrophysicist at the University of British Columbia. More discoveries are likely on their way. The Canadian astronomers say they've found a second repeating signal that is distinct from the first one.

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

Cornell University's Shami Chatterjee, a fellow FRB researcher, agreed: "This field is about to break wide open".

Good said that "if we had 1,000 examples, we would be able to say many more things about what FRBs are like". "That tells us something about the environments and the sources". Knowing that there is another suggests that there could be more out there.

Another interesting point to keep in mind, according to Loeb, is that the first repeater exhibited an associated persistent radio source, whereas the new repeater did not. "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".

Added Landecker: "We haven't solved the problem, but it's several more pieces in the puzzle".

"We are very far from that yet", Ng said.

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