A second mysterious repeating fast radio burst has been detected in space

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In 2017, Professor Avid Loeb, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics in the United States, proposed that FRBs could be leakage from planet-sized alien transmitters.

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.

Astronomers reported the discoveries at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society on January 7 and in the Jan. 9 Nature. The telescope, which resembles a set of skateboarding half-pipes, was built as part of the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) to record radio signals from outer space.

They found that one of the FRBs was repeating.

The fast radio bursts (FRBs) are millisecond-long flashes of radio waves of unknown origin, and scientists have formulated several different theories as to how they might be generated.

"Until now, there was only one known repeating FRB", said Ingrid Stairs, a member of the CHIME team and an astrophysicist at UBC. The project wasn't yet living up to its full potential, suggesting that there are plenty more bursts to be discovered. The amount of scattering observed by the CHIME team led them to conclude that the sources of FRBs are powerful astrophysical objects more likely to be in locations with special characteristics.

Team member Dr Cherry Ng, from the University of Toronto, said: "That could mean in some sort of dense clump like a supernova [exploding star] remnant".

The CHIME researchers are working with an array of antennas in central New Mexico to pin down the galaxy to which the second repeater belongs.

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The mystery stems from the fact it is not known what could produce such a short and sharp burst.

Some scientists have speculated that the sources of FRBs might be rotating neutron stars with extremely strong magnetic fields, or even super-advanced radio beacons operated by extraterrestrial civilizations. Additional bursts from the repeating FRB were detected in following weeks by the telescope, which is located in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley.

But it was so temporary and seemingly random that it took years for astronomers to agree it wasn't a glitch in one of the telescope's instruments. "This allows us to study how structures in the Universe formed and how they are distributed".

This intervening material blurs the signal from the cosmic microwave background (CMB), the left over radiation from the Big Bang.

"This is good news for radio telescopes that are sensitive at lower radio frequencies", she said.

The telescope at the Canadian observatory that found the latest signals had previously detected the lowest frequency FRB known on record at wavelengths of 400 megahertz, according to Nature.

In 2017 Loeb and Harvard colleague Manasvi Lingam proposed that FRBs could be leakage from planet-sized alien transmitters. It was reportedly a very unusual repeating signal, coming from the same source, approximately 1.5 billion light years away.

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