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article imageCanadian astronomers detect mysterious radio signal

By Karen Graham     Jan 10, 2019 in Science
A mysterious radio signal emanating from far across the universe has been detected by a radio telescope in British Columbia. The discovery is significant because it’s only the second time ever a repeating signal has been observed by scientists.
The radio telescope is housed in an observatory south of Penticton, British Columbia, Canada at the center of the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, or CHIME, according to Digital Journal.
CHIME is a partnership between the University of British Columbia, McGill University, the University of Toronto and the Canadian National Research Council's Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory.
Construction on CHIME began in 2015, and a first light ceremony with Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan was held on September 7, 2017, to inaugurate CHIME's operational phase.
The Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment during construction of the parabolic trough refle...
The Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment during construction of the parabolic trough reflector at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in British Columbia, Canada.
Mateus A. Fandiño - The CHIME collaboration
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. There is also a type of intergalactic light - known as fast radio bursts (FRBs) - that have consistently boggled scientists and their instruments.
Since the discovery of FRBs in 2007, only about 60 have been observed, but thanks to CHIME, the number of FRBs is growing quickly. According to two new papers published on January 9, 2019, in the journal Nature, scientists working at CHIME have detected 13 new FRBs in just a two-month span.
Amazingly, among the newly captured signals are seven bursts that registered at 400 megahertz, The only other repeating radio burst from a single source was an FRB discovered by the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico in 2015.
Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
JidoBG
While we don't know a whole lot about FRBs or what causes them, scientists believe they may be coming from a powerful astrophysical phenomena billions of light years away, reports CTV News Canada.
"Until now, there was only one known repeating FRB," Ingrid Stairs, a member of the CHIME team and an astrophysicist at the University of British Columbia, said in a statement. "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."
Getting closer to answers
Let's touch on a few theories about FRBs. There has been speculation that FRBs may be the remnants of distant supernovas, or radiation spewed out by supermassive black holes. Avi Loeb, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who was not involved in the study, suggests the pulses could be "artificially produced."
The revolutionary radio telescope housed in an observatory south of Penticton  B.C.
The revolutionary radio telescope housed in an observatory south of Penticton, B.C.
CHIME
However, suggesting an alien spacecraft might be making these repeating pulses is doubtful. The repeating signals flashed from the same spot in the sky (from an estimated 1.5 billion light-years away) six times over the course of several months.
Moreover, the CHIME scientists, in this study suggest that FRBs are more common than our current technology is able to reflect. 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.
This suggests that there are FRBs with even lower frequencies likely zipping past our planet all the time — we just aren't able to see them yet. “With CHIME mapping the entire northern hemisphere every day, we’re bound to find more repeaters over time,” Ingrid Stairs, a member of the CHIME team and an astrophysicist at UBC, said.
More about chime, Radio telescope, radia signals, fast radio bursts, 400 megahertz
 
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