Radio Signals Detected From Outer Space

Federico Mansilla
Enero 11, 2019

Astronomers are more than a little excited with the second ever detection of a repeating fast radio burst in deep space.

"By detecting and characterizing fast radio bursts at different frequencies, we can understand better which theories work and which do not", post-doctoral fellow at McGill University, Shriharsh Tendulkar, told Cnet.

The only other known FRB repeater was discovered in 2012 using the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico.

Most of the 13 found by Chime showed signs of "scattering", which scientists said suggests they could come from powerful astrophysical objects in locations with special characteristics.

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

"We don't see these kinds of structures from other fast radio bursts that are in a single burst", said Tendulkar.

The unexplained radio bursts were recorded over the course of just three weeks in July 2018, during the telescope's warmup phase. Whatever the photons pass through, that interaction is recorded in the radio waves and can be "translated" after it's received by the telescope. "But it has to be in some special place to give us all the scattering that we see", said Ng.

They found that one of the FRBs was repeating.

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What they do know is that the "frequency of the radio waves helps us to figure out what produces the bursts and how the environment of the bursts look like", Pleunis said, adding that the frequency relates to the intensity of the light that's being emitted from the source and the size of its magnetic field.

Good said that "if we had 1,000 examples, we would be able to say many more things about what FRBs are like". Excitingly, it bears striking similarities to the first repeating FRB.

In one of the two papers published in Nature researchers said seeing two repeating blasts probably means there exists a "substantial population" and it's very possible humans will find it. While most FRBs have been spotted at wavelengths of a few centimetres, the latest FRBs were detected at wavelengths of almost a metre. FRBs last for just a few milliseconds, and their unpredictable displays make observations notoriously hard.

"With fast radio bursts, it's always felt like the more answers we get, the more questions we have", said Sarah Burke-Spolaor, an astrophysicist at West Virginia University who was not involved in the new research. 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.

Another interesting twist has to do with the radio frequencies of the newly detected bursts.

This is because CHIME's telescope is quite advanced in comparison to the ones that were being used before, and operates in the lower ranges of 400 MHz - the next one was at 700 MHz.

"We have discovered a second repeater and its properties are very similar to the first repeater".

The CHIME/FRB Collaboration includes scientists from UBC and McGill as well as the University of Toronto, the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and the National Research Council of Canada.

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