The mysterious radio signals are so-called Fast Radio Bursts or FRBs from some unknown source in the cosmos. Thanks to Canada’s CHIME radio telescope in British Columbia, astronomers have identified eight of these radio bursts on Earth. FRBs are incredibly short blasts of radio waves that only last milliseconds at a time. First discovered in 2007, FRBs have been a source of confusion among the scientific community.
Astronomers are not certain where FRBs come from but each new detection brings us closer to solving the mystery.
A new study, pre-published on the archive website arXiv.org, revealed eight new repeating FRBs detected in Canada.
The study reads: “We report on the discovery of eight repeating Fast Radio Bursts (FRB) sources found using the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) telescope.”
McGill Space Institute PhD student Pragya Chawla, who co-authored the paper, said: “Discovering eight sources like this is so important because it says we have a lot more repeating FRBs and can figure out the environments and the galaxies these FRBs are located in if we follow them up with other telescopes.”
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What are Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs)?
FRBs are a fairly recent discovery and remain one of the biggest unknowns of the universe.
Scientists have described these signals as being 1,000 times weaker than a mobile phone found on the surface of the Moon.
The first sign of an FRB was found in 2007, hidden in a 2001 data set collected by the Parkes Observatory in New South Wales, Australia.
Since the discovery, astronomers have slightly expanded their understanding of FRBs by learning some of the signals repeat.
Victoria Kaspi, an astrophysicist at McGill University, told CBC: “The first biggest conclusion is that this is not an anomalous phenomenon. This is for real.
“It just takes time and patience to find them. And two, it offers the opportunity to localise them, and that’s huge in the FRB field.”
READ MORE: Cosmic mystery of ‘fast radio bursts’ from space baffles astronomers
Scientists have traced back repeater signals to galaxies billions of light-years away in a bid to show they are not unique to any particular star cluster.
FRBs, for instance, have been traced to a galaxy in the constellation Grus four billion light-years away.
One theory speculates the radio bursts are a side effect of dense neutron stars colliding with black holes.
Another theory suggests FRBs are produced by magnetars – neutron stars with incredibly powerful magnetic fields.
Whatever the case may be, there is no clear consensus or evidence to completely unravel the mystery just yet.