Second Mysterious Fast Radio Burst Detected From Outer Space

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.

These are fast radio bursts, some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astronomy. They last less than a millisecond before they disappear, according to National Geographic.

The nature and origin of the radio waves remain unknown.

There are some theories as to what is behind the repeating burst, and Stairs says there's no shortage of explanations.

The discoveries, described in two papers in Nature, were presented at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle.

Researchers recorded 13 bursts in a three-week period.

The discovery of the extragalactic signal is among the first, eagerly awaited results from the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME), a radio telescope inaugurated in 2017.

"We have more ideas of what they could be than we have actual detected fast radio bursts", Dustin Lang, a computational scientist with Ontario's Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics whose software helped detect the FRBs, said in a video released by the Institute on Wednesday. The source is from something with an extremely powerful magnetic field that produces a signal along the radio frequency band. Observations of fast radio bursts at frequencies down to 400 megahertz. It's easier, therefore, to measure and understand these effects at lower frequencies. The new signal is known as FRB 180814.J0422+73.

"[We now know] the sources can produce low-frequency radio waves and those low-frequency waves can escape their environment, and are not too scattered to be detected by the time they reach the Earth", said Tom Landecker, a CHIME team member.

Stairs credits the discoveries to an "amazing team" of post-doctoral researchers and is confident more findings are on the horizon.

"Until now, there was only one known repeating FRB". It was beginning to look like the lone example, FRB 121102, might be a freak object, but this suggests that it may simply be rare. "The fact that we found a second one just like that in a way implies that there could be lots more out there". That tells us something about the environments and the sources.

But that's just one of the riddles associated with this "fantastic phenomenon", said Tendulkar.

Experts have debated whether black holes or super-dense neutron stars are responsible, but others have suggested more outlandish theories.

However, some people chose to keep an open mind to the possibilities. The first FRB was recorded in 2001 and identified in 2007, while the first repeating FRB was detected in 2012. "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".

Since then, CHIME has been at its maximum capacity, and it is expected to detect many more of the enigmatic pulses now that it is fully operational.

Awesome - we're very much looking forward to that as well.

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