Repeating FRB’s Detected –“Deepening Their Profound Mystery”


FRB Origin


“Fast radio bursts are exceedingly bright given their short duration and origin at great distances, and we haven’t identified a possible natural source with any confidence,” said theorist Avi Loeb at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “An artificial origin is worth contemplating and checking.”

Recently published research suggests that mysterious phenomena called fast radio bursts could be evidence of advanced alien technology, suggests Loeb. Specifically, these bursts might be leakage from planet-sized transmitters powering interstellar probes in distant galaxies.


Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico


The only known repeating FRB is one that first appeared in 2012. It seems to originate in a galaxy some 2.5 billion light-years from Earth. These millisecond-long flashes of radio emission were first discovered in 2007. Fewer than two dozen have been detected by gigantic radio telescopes like the Parkes Observatory in Australia or the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

“Something Unexpected Going On” –Astronomers Tune In to Fast Radio Bursts Cosmic Frequency

Finding a second repeater, reports Elizabeth Gibney in the journal Nature, confirms that the first was not some kind of freak event.

“Look! We see FRBs,” exclaimed Deborah Good, an astronomer at the University of British Columbia, reporting the first results from the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME), an observatory located outside Penticton, British Columbia that was originally designed to explore the early Universe but has turned out to be ideal for detecting FRBs, observed Nature.

First spotted in 2007, FRBs are one of the most intriguing mysteries in astrophysics. The only other known repeating FRB appeared in 2012, seeming to have its source in a galaxy some 2.5 billion light-years from Earth, confirming that the first was not some kind of freak event.

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In early testing during July and August, before it began full operations, CHIME spotted 13 FRBs. Prior to this, astronomers had between 50 and 60 examples. “If we had 1,000 examples, we would be able to say many more things about what FRBs are like,” Good said.

CHIME also detected only the second known FRB that repeats, meaning that the radio flashes re-appear at the same point in the sky. It saw the repeater pop up at least five separate times, the first on 14 August, Good said. “We’re very excited,” she told the meeting.

CHIME has also detected the lowest-frequency FRB known so far, Good said. It appeared at wavelengths of 400 megahertz, breaking the previous record of 700 megahertz. Previous hunts with other telescopes had not found any FRBs at these lower wavelengths.

Studying lower-frequency FRBs, and the way in which their radiation is scattered on the way to Earth, can reveal more about the environment in which the bursts originate.

Image credit:  Artist’s impression of spinning galaxies. Amanda Smith, University of Cambridge

The Daily Galaxy via Nature and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics


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