Mysterious radio signals from deep space detected

An artist's conception of a type of neutron star called a magnetar

Astronomers have picked up repeating radio signals from a source about 1.5 billion light years away.

The astronomers said they received 13 fast radio bursts (known as FRBs), one of which was a repeating signal that came from some source almost 1.5 billion light-years away, according to a new study.

There are a number of theories about what could be causing them.

Theories range from highly magnetized neutron stars blasted by gas streams from a nearby supermassive black hole, to signatures of technology developed by an advanced civilisation.

Within weeks of CHIME's FRB-detecting software being activated last summer ― in what Lang said was only a testing phase that didn't run on full capacity ― CHIME detected these 13 new bursts.

They found that one of the FRBs was repeating.

Even though FRBs were detected in 2007, it was only in 2015 that the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico detected such repeating radio waves. "We haven't solved the problem, but it's several more pieces in the puzzle", says Tom Landecker, a CHIME team member from the National Research Council of Canada.

Although there are still many questions about what exactly they are and what causes them, scientists believe they could be emanating from a powerful astrophysical phenomena billions of light years away.

CHIME is useful for the FRB search as it's a static instrument that relies on the Earth's rotation to sweep its view across the sky and this allowed its designers to build an instrument much larger than can easily be achieved with a swiveling dish design. While these fast radio bursts (FRBs) are likely the result of black holes or strongly magnetized neutron stars, some say they could be evidence of far-flung alien life.

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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.

In brief: In what is only the second time in history, astronomers have discovered ultra-brief repeating energy bursts from deep space.

NASA research scientist Dr Jessie Christiansen said "astronomers are super excited to find out more, but generally do not think it is extraterrestrial".

Loeb said we now know of two repeaters out of about 60 known sources, which "implies that the repeater population is not negligible but also represents a small minority, less than a tenth, of the entire population of FRB sources".

"We have discovered a second repeater and its properties are very similar to the first repeater", said Shriharsh Tendulkar of McGill University, Canada.

The majority of FRBs identified prior to CHIME's observations featured high frequencies, signals close to 1400 MHz.

Astronomers' studying of FRBs can teach those who study more about where the bursts come from, and whether that region in its galaxy is home to turbulent gas.

The precise nature and origin of the blasts of radio waves is unknown.

We'd rather it just straight up be aliens though.

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