UBC scientists record second repeating radio burst from outside our galaxy

Federico Mansilla
Enero 12, 2019

One of the newly detected bursts is a rare "repeater" - researchers saw six flashes coming from the same spot in the sky, which they hope will make it easier to pin down the source of the signal.

Fast radio bursts, or FRBs, are cosmic radio bursts that last only milliseconds.

The radio waves were detected by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME), the world's most powerful radio telescope, spread across an area as big as a football pitch. 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.

Canada's CHIME radio telescope detected 13 fast radio bursts, known as FRBs.

Detection of the first fast radio bursts There is an array of radio signals and microwaves cast out by distant stars, black holes, and other celestial bodies, all bombarding our planet at any given time. With more data on fast radio bursts, including their sources and behavior, it's only a matter of time before astronomers and astrophysicists unravel their mystery. It could be anything, the astronomers say, from a natural, yet unknown, process in the Universe to messages coming from extraterrestrial civilizations.

The latest results settled these doubts, with the majority of the 13 bursts being recorded well down to the lowest frequencies in the radio telescope's range.

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The 13 fast radio bursts (FRB) have previously been picked up once before by a different telescope.

The "scattering" phenomenon was detected in the radio bursts, which can help answer questions about the atmosphere surrounding the origin.

CHIME (Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment) also spotted a dozen single burst radio waves, but with an unusual profile. More likely it's "powerful astrophysical objects more likely to be in locations with special characteristics", the scientists speculated.

While this preliminary data doesn't provide a clear indication of what fast radio bursts are, CHIME provides reason for optimism that the "we need more data" mantra is likely to be met. CHIME is now fully commissioned, and it will be taking data full time and with the instrument's full field of view.

"Knowing that there is another suggests that there could be more out there".

"That could mean in some sort of dense clump like a supernova remnant or near the central black hole in a galaxy", said Dr. "This tells us more about the properties of repeaters as a population", said Shriharsh Tendulkar of McGill University, Canada. "But it has to be in some special place to give us all the scattering that we see".

Located in Penticton, British Colombia, the CHIME observatory is made up of four 100 x 20 metre semi-cylinders that appear similar to snowboarding half-pipes.

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