Canada's new radio telescope, called CHIME (short for Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment) has picked up some rather mysterious signals from deep space, known as 'fast radio bursts', or FRBs.
The telescope, located in British Columbia, has just detected the first-ever FRB at frequencies below 700MHz, a signal researchers have named FRB 180725A.
FRBs, as the name suggests, are brief bursts of radio waves at super-fast speeds of a few milliseconds and come from far beyond our Milky Way galaxy.
The phenomenon was first detected and reported in 2007. As of mid-2017, only roughly two dozen have been reported. Their origin is unknown. However, they are ubiquitous: current best estimates suggest these events are arriving on Earth roughly a thousand times per day over the entire sky.
The CHIME telescope's large collection area, wide bandwidth and enormous field-of-view apparently make it a great detector of FRBs. The CHIME FRB event rate is predicted to be between two and 50 FRBs per day.
This high event-rate promises major progress in examining this relatively new astro-physical phenomenon, CHIME scientists have said. Bright CHIME-discovered FRBs are found in real time and reported immediately to the worldwide astro-physical community for multi-wavelength follow up.
This is what happened with the detection of FRB 180725A. While it's very preliminary at this point, it was announced in an online 'Astronomers' Telegram' post intended to encourage other astronomers "to search for repeated bursts at all wavelengths".
So far only one FRB has been observed repeating and researchers say whatever is sending that signal across the universe must be exceptionally powerful. The astronomers' indications also suggest they aren't coming from known sources on Earth.
In the meantime, CHIME and other similar observatories will be keeping busy listening out for more clues to help solve the mystery of the super low FRB frequencies.
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