Astronomers detect another batch of mysterious repeating fast radio bursts

Whatever they are, CHIME's initial detections suggest that the $13 million radio telescope will be a powerful tool for tracking down more of the bursts.

Thirteen flashes were seen via a new radio telescope dubbed the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, affectionately known as Chime.

And if CHIME was able to make these detections before it was even fully up and running, the researchers are hopeful that the new radio telescope will help them find answers about these mysterious signals.

Another notable attribute of the new FRBs is their unusually low radio frequencies - coming in at 800 megahertz rather than the 1,400 megahertz of most previously detected signals.

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

FRBs tend to be fleeting events, but a repeating FRB, named FRB 1211012, was detected by Puerto Rico's Arecibo radio telescope in 2012.

Mysterious repeated blasts of radio signals tracked from deep space have been detected by Canadian astronomers.

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.

The observatory can examine 500 times as much sky as the next FRB superstar, the Parkes radio telescope in Australia, which revealed the first FRB in 2007 and has found the majority of known bursts.

'Or near the central black hole in a galaxy.

At distances of billions of light years it's obviously very hard to test any of these theories, but detecting more FRBs, especially those that have a habit of repeating, could bring us closer to an explanation.

"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", he said.

While most FRBs have been spotted at wavelengths of a few centimetres, the latest FRBs were detected at wavelengths of almost a metre, which opens up new lines of inquiry, according to the CHIME team.

The signals - known as fast radio bursts (FRBs) - have been speculated to be coming from neutron stars merging or even aliens.

The repeater detected by CHIME bears a strong resemblance to FRB 121102, said Dunlap Institute astrophysicist Cherry Ng, lead author of the second Nature paper.

"[We now know] the sources can produce low-frequency radio waves and those low-frequency waves can escape their environment, and are not too scattered to be detected by the time they reach the Earth", Tom Landecker, a CHIME team member from the National Research Council of Canada, said in a statement.

To which he added: "CHIME is the most prolific FRB hunter in the world and we are looking forward to sharing new results in the upcoming months". The detection by CHIME of FRBs at lower frequencies means some of these theories will need to be reconsidered. "We would also like to study the properties of whole populations of FRBs and try to see if there are different sources that give rise to repeaters and non-repeaters".

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