The fast radio bursts suggest there could be more out there, researchers say.
A Canadian-led team of scientists, including researchers from the University of Toronto, has found the second-ever recorded repeating fast radio burst (FRB), a short burst of radio waves coming from far outside our Milky Way galaxy.
"Until now, there was only one known repeating FRB". Many theories have been thrown out to explain them - one Harvard University professor even suggested they might be signs of alien life. The first FRB was recorded in 2001 and identified in 2007, while the first repeating FRB was detected in 2012.
Having two sets of repeating bursts could also allow scientists to understand what distinguishes them from single bursts, helping them understand more about their source and watch for future blasts.
Before CHIME began to gather data, some scientists wondered if the range of radio frequencies the telescope had been created to detect would be too low to pick up fast radio bursts. Some scientists had anxious that the range of frequencies it can pick up would be too low for it to receive the FRBs - but it found far more than expected, and scientists expect it to identify even more.
"FRBs, it seems, are likely generated in dense, turbulent regions of host galaxies", Shriharsh Tendulkar, a corresponding author for both studies and an astronomer at McGillUniversity in Canada, told AFP news agency.
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"We're very excited to see what CHIME can do when it's running at full capacity", said Deborah Good, a PhD student in physics and astronomy at UBC who is part of CHIME's FRB team.
"At the end of a year we may have found 1,000 more bursts".
They spotted the bursts in a two-week period.
"[We now know] the sources can produce low-frequency radio waves and those low-frequency waves can escape their environment, and are not too scattered to be detected by the time they reach the Earth", Tom Landecker, a CHIME team member from the National Research Council of Canada, said in a statement.
At distances of billions of light years it's obviously very hard to test any of these theories, but detecting more FRBs, especially those that have a habit of repeating, could bring us closer to an explanation.
"Whatever the source of these radio waves is, it's interesting to see how wide a range of frequencies it can produce".
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