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Aliens could be behind mysterious radio waves from deep space

10 January 2019

Two of the new observations are particularly special: one, by showing the lowest "dispersion measure" ever reported for an FRB, is probably among the closest observed and the other is just the second repeating FRB ever identified.

The fast radio bursts, named FRBs, were discovered by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) team in British Columbia, Canada. Fast radio bursts might actually be common - it's just that we're only just noticing them.

Scientists have scores of theories about what might create such stupendous signals - spinning cores of collapsed stars, powerful magnetic fields around black holes, the fog of dust and gas from which new stars form.

Canadian astronomers have reportedly discovered a repetitive radio signal some 2.5 billion light-years away from Earth - only the second example known to mankind.

FRBs are bursts of radio waves from an unknown origin in deep space, but CHIME's team believe the source is a "powerful astrophysical object more likely to be in a location with special characteristics". Most of the bursts that scientists detect come from a spot in space that never produces another such signal. "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", astrophysicist Ingrid Stairs told the Independent.

FRB's were first detected accidentally in 2007, when a burst signal was spotted in radio astronomy data collected in 2001.

This repeating FRB is one of thirteen (the rest are single bursts) announced today by scientists.

One member of the team, Dr Cherry Ng, says the latest FRBs could be coming from "some sort of dense clump like a supernova [exploding star] remnant".

"Whatever the source of these radio waves is, it's interesting to see how wide a range of frequencies it can produce", said CHIME team member Dr. Arun Naidu, a researcher at McGill University. The unexpectedly low 400 MHz frequency suggests FRBs might be detected at even lower frequencies, but another instrument would have to be used for that, as this is as low as CHIME can go.

CHIME is a collaboration of more than 50 scientists led by the University of British Columbia, McGill University, University of Toronto, and the National Research Council of Canada (NRC).

Kaspi said CHIME quickly detected a source that sent out a series of six fast radio bursts.

The results are published in two papers in the journal Nature. "But intelligent life is not on the minds of any astronomer as a source of these FRBs", he said.

"This is good news for radio telescopes that are sensitive at lower radio frequencies", she said.

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".

Added Landecker: "We haven't solved the problem, but it's several more pieces in the puzzle".

Aliens could be behind mysterious radio waves from deep space