For the second time in history, astronomers have detected a repeating fast radio burst (FRB) originating from outside the Milky Way.
The new repeating FRB, dubbed FRB 180814.J0422+73, was detected by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) telescope in July/August last year. In the study, published in the journal Nature, the scientists reveal that the CHIME recorded 13 FRBs during a three-week period across July and August.
According to the scientists, the repeating FRB was recorded six times coming from the same region, located about 1.5 billion light years away.
FRBs are suspected to be the result of anything from exploding stars to potential transmission signals from aliens. So far, scientists have very little information about where they actually might be coming from. These bursts last only for a millisecond, but they are released in space with huge amounts of energy.
"Look! We see FRBs," said Deborah Good, an astronomer at the University of British Columbia in Canada, while addressing a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, Washington, on 7 January.
"If we had 1,000 examples, we would be able to say many more things about what FRBs are like," Good added.
The first FRB was detected by astronomers in 2007. Since then, scientists have detected more than 60 bursts, with only one - recorded in 2012 at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico - being a repeater. That repeating FRB seemed to have originated from a galaxy located about 2.5 billion light-years from Earth.
Now, detection of a second repeating FRB confirms that the first instance of a repeating FRB was not a freak event.
According to Good, CHIME - in July/August 2018 - also detected the lowest-frequency FRB with the wavelength of 400 megahertz. The previous record of lowest-frequency FRB was of 700 megahertz.
CHIME is located at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in British Columbia, Canada. It was originally created to explore the early universe, but it has now become the ideal instrument to detect FRBs.
The novel radio telescope features no moving parts. It has four, 100-metre-long cylinders of metal mesh which enables it to construct images of the sky. The telescope functions round the clock and scans the entire northern sky to catch transient FRBs.
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