Strange repeating signals from the universe found for the second time

Detections of FRBs at low frequencies also provide a new clue to the astrophysical puzzle.


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Astronomers for the second time have detected repeating signal coming from an unknown source in space. The signals are nothing but fast radio burst, only the second repeating burst to be recorded.

Fast radio bursts are millisecond-duration, extragalactic radio flashes of obscure physical origin. Up until this point, just a single rehashing fast radio burst has been observed, called FRB 121102. Furthermore, the lowest radio recurrence recorded beforehand for an FRB was 700 megahertz.

Astrophysicist Ingrid Stairs of the University of British Columbia said, “Until now, there was only one known repeating FRB. Knowing that there is another suggests that there could be more out there. And with more repeaters and more sources available for study, we may be able to understand these cosmic puzzles – where they’re from and what causes them.”

These newly observed radio bursts called FRB 180814.J0422+73  are estimated to originate from a distance of around 1.5 billion light-years, approximately half the distance of the other repeating burst, FRB 121102.

FRB 180814.J0422+73, which hails from a galaxy 1.5 billion light-years away, is already providing some new clues as to this great cosmic mystery.

In one paper, the CHIME/FRB collaboration present 13 fast radio bursts newly detected by the CHIME (Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment) instrument. At least seven of these bursts were recorded at 400 megahertz (the lowest frequency recorded so far), which the authors suggest indicates that bursts could be observed at even lower frequencies than CHIME can detect.

Further observations will hopefully provide further clues – and so should CHIME, which could detect dozens of signals a day at full capacity. But it’s just so exciting how much it has revealed already.

The team’s research has been published in two papers in the journal Nature. They can be found here and here.