Friday, 18 January, 2019

Repeating radio waves from deep space baffle scientists

Scientists discover mysterious radio signals from distant galaxy. What are they? Mysterious radio waves: the Code from outer space
Theresa Hayes | 11 January, 2019, 19:28

Radio signals coming from a distant galaxy in outer space have been detected by a telescope in Canada.

Known by its acronym CHIME, the world's most powerful radio telescope, spread across an area as big as a football pitch, is poised to detect many more of the enigmatic pulses now that it is fully operational. "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.

In 2017 Professor Loeb and Harvard colleague Manasvi Lingham proposed that FRBs could be leakage from planet-sized alien transmitters.

The University went on to say that FRBs are hard to research but could be linked to powerful astrophysical objects such as supernova remnants.

When the first fast radio burst was detected, in 2007, many scientists thought it had to be a result of some telescopic mix-up.

"Extraordinary claims beg for extraordinary evidence, so for now, a simpler explanation based on known physical processes is preferred by most scientists", Pleunis said.

Despite the chaos, discoveries poured in-13 fast radio bursts were identified. Excitingly, it bears striking similarities to the first repeating FRB.

Mysterious repeating energy bursts have been detected for only the second time.

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. Interestingly, some the signals follow a repeating pattern, per Science News, so they don't appear to be random in nature.

Stairs said that with CHIME, "mapping the entire northern hemisphere every day, we're bound to find more repeaters over time".

Indeed, it's still early days in our understanding of FRBs, but a pair of papers published today in Nature are offering tantalising new clues about this enigmatic feature of the cosmos.

Constructed in British Columbia, CHIME is composed of four, 100-meter long half-pipe cylinders of metal mesh, which reconstruct images of the sky by processing the radio signals recorded by more than a thousand antennas. Astronomers have grappled with this mystery for years because, while they continue to observe bursts, they are still unsure of what causes them. It was one of 13 new FRBs the team detected during three weeks in the summer of 2018.

"This is good news for radio telescopes that are sensitive at lower radio frequencies", she said. The source of this repeating FRB is located about 1.5 billion light-years from Earth, which is considerably closer than FRB 1211012, which was twice as far away.

That high rate of discovery suggests that FBRs, let alone repeating FBRs, may not be as unique as we think, said Perimeter Institute faculty member Kendrick Smith.

As for what FRBs are and where they come from, little is known.

While most believe that astrophysical phenomena like black holes or neutron stars produce the FRBs, some also suggest that they are produced by aliens, which is of course a rather outlandish theory. "But it has to be in some special place to give us all the scattering that we see".

He added: "That tells us something about the environments and the sources".