Sunday, 16 June, 2019


B.C. telescope picks up mysterious repeating fast radio burst

What – or who – is sending these strange signals? More What – or who – is sending these strange signals? More
Kristine Garrett | 11 January, 2019, 19:30

Astronomers over the years have picked up dozens of "fast radio bursts" (FRBs) - mysterious radio signals detected from an unknown part of the cosmos. As soon as this advanced detection system was switched on previous year it detected "13 of the radio bursts nearly immediately, including the repeater" and Stairs added "With more repeaters and more sources available for study, astronomers will now be able to better understand where they're from and what causes them".

The new FRBs are are also at unusually low radio frequencies.

"One of those 13 fast radio bursts that we found is a repeating burst, it has shown up on many days since those initial observations, and this is only the second repeating fast radio burst ever found", Stairs explains.

"That could mean [the source is] in some sort of dense clump like a supernova remnant", team member Cherry Ng, an astronomer at the University of Toronto, said in a statement.

Unlike typical FRBs that come and go, the discovery of a repeating FRB is vital to increasing our understanding of them, as we are able to train our radio telescopes towards them to study them further.

As for the new repeater, it's called FRB 180814.J0422+73. "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".

The CHIME telescope in British Columbia will search our universe for phenomena such as fast radio bursts, pulsars and more.

FRBs are not rare, as about 60 have been catalogued since 2007, but only one has been a repeating FRB so far, opening up debate as to what causes them. The project wasn't yet living up to its full potential, suggesting that there are plenty more bursts to be discovered. It would be helpful to figure out the nature and cause of this persistent source in the first repeater, "since it will likely shed light on the central engine of the FRB emission", he said.

To process that, the team had to work out "how to scale the computations that are needed to do radio astronomy up to unprecedented volume".

"The chances of having aliens in all these different places deciding to make the same kind of signals and directing them toward us, it's just not a viable thing", she said with a laugh.

"Until now, there was only one known repeating FRB", said a Chime astrophysicist, Dr Ingrid Stairs, from the University of British Columbia.

Arun Naidu, another scientist working on this potentially ground-breaking research told the Inquisitr, "Whatever the source of these radio waves is, it's interesting to see how wide a range of frequencies it can produce".

The low frequency of this new detection could mean that the source of the bursts differ. Even though we've evolved our understanding of the cosmos over the past centuries, the reality is that we barely comprehend the many mysteries this vast expanse holds within it. FRBs last for just a few milliseconds, and their unpredictable displays make observations notoriously hard. Most of the FRBs previously detected had been found at frequencies near 1,400 megahertz, well above the Canadian telescope's range of 400 megahertz to 800 megahertz.

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