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11 January 2019, 07:31 | Edward Lowe
Mysterious radio waves: the Code from outer space
Astronomers have revealed that a telescope in Canada has picked up mysterious repeating signals emanating from a galaxy 1.5 billion light years away, BBC reported on Wednesday.
The "fast radio burst" was found by a new Canadian telescope, which detected a total of 13 radio bursts over the course of three weeks. While most FRBs have been spotted at wavelengths of a few centimetres, the latest FRBs were detected at wavelengths of almost a metre.
Chime astrophysicist Dr Ingrid Stairs, from the University of British Columbia, explained its significance. Harvard UniversityProfessor Abraham Loeb past year said FRBs could originate from planet-sized transmitters that are used to propel giant spaceships by bouncing radio waves off their huge reflective sheets.
"But it has to be in some special place to give us all the scattering that we see", team member Cherry Ng, an astronomer at the University of Toronto, said.
Repeating FRBs are even more rare, with the first, labeled FRB 112102, detected in 2007 following a review of telescope data that had been collected in 2001.
Excitement:Scientists get excited when they see repeating signals because it allows astronomers to make multiple observations of where the signals come from, The Verge reports. It's believed there could be about 1,000 FRBs in the sky every day. "Scattering" was detected in the fast radio bursts, which is a phenomenon that helps determine more about the environment surrounding the origin.
While a bunch of FRBs have been detected previously, this is only the second time one's been observed to repeat itself.
"By detecting and characterizing fast radio bursts at different frequencies, we can understand better which theories work and which do not", post-doctoral fellow at McGillUniversity, Shriharsh Tendulkar, told Cnet.
The low frequency of this new detection could mean that the source of the bursts differ.
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. These effects vary with frequency, and many of them become stronger at lower frequencies.
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".
Researchers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics point out that FRBs can be used to study the structure and evolution of the universe whether or not their origin is fully understood.
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