'There could be more out there': Mysterious radio bursts coming from space

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Scientists have discovered the second repeating fast radio burst released into space far outside the Milky Way galaxy, according to a study.

"Until now, there was only one known repeating FRB", said a Chime astrophysicist, Dr Ingrid Stairs, from the University of British Columbia. "When the first repeater was found, we didn't know if that was a unique object in the universe or if there was a class of these things, or if maybe all of the fast radio bursts actually were repeated, but numerous bursts were too faint for our telescopes to pick up".

To detect the new fast radio bursts, scientists used results from the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME), a powerful, revolutionary radio telescope which was completed in late 2017, and was developed in collaboration with scientists Kiyoshi Masui, an assistant professor of physics at MIT and Juan Mena Parra, a Kavli postdoc.

The new discovery was made using the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (Chime), in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley. There has been speculation that FRBs may be the remnants of distant supernovas, or radiation spewed out by supermassive black holes. No one knows what causes them, but they're unlike anything else we've observed - and their uniqueness makes them a prime target for detection in noisy data.

More likely, CHIME's Shiryash Tendulkar says, is the possibility that they come from a "very strongly magnetized, rapidly spinning neutron star called a millisecond magnetar". "It could be colliding black holes but you don't expect black holes to collide and then an hour later collide again, and then after that to collide again, right?" Since getting past the pre-commissioning phase, CHIME has detected emissions in multiple events - seen down to 400 MHz, the lowest radio frequency to which it is sensitive.

Second Mysterious Fast Radio Burst Detected From Outer Space
CHIME is a fixed radio telescope that covers more area than a football field and passively scans the skies 24/7 as Earth rotates. Moreover, the CHIME scientists , in this study suggest that FRBs are more common than our current technology is able to reflect.

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"And with more repeaters available for study, we may be able to understand these cosmic puzzles a bit better", Stairs added.

The goal: learn more about the powerful signals and where they come from.

The researchers said that studying the fast radio bursts is a hard task because they're rare and only occur once. Seeing two repeating signals probably means that there exists - and that humanity will probably find - a "substantial population" of repeating signals, the researchers write in one of the two papers published in Nature.

A majority of the intercepted fast radio bursts shows signs of "scattering", a phenomenon that reveals information about the environment where the radio waves originated from, Phys.org reported. Several weeks ago, however, 13 new bursts were detected within two months. "But it has to be in some special place to give us all the scattering that we see", said Ng. Now a Canadian research team has found a repeating signal, only the second of its kind to be discovered.

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