Mysterious 'repeater' fast radio burst detected from faraway galaxy

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The breakthrough is only the second time scientists have seen such a repeating radio burst from a galaxy billions of light years away.

According to the BBC, the radio waves were picked up by a Canadian telescope, and among the 13 radio bursts was a very unusual repeating signal.

Fast radio bursts, also known as FRBs, are powerful spikes of radio emissions that emanate from galaxies beyond our own Milky Way and last for mere milliseconds.

Some, including Prof Avi Loeb, from the Harvard-Smithsonian centre for astrophysics, have posited theories that they could even be evidence of incredibly advanced alien technology, the Guardian reported. Some believe it could be a neutron star from a magnetic field. A repeating FRB, however, provides more opportunities for scientists to learn about these radio bursts and where they come from.

Chime astrophysicist Dr Ingrid Stairs, from the University of British Columbia, explained its significance.

In 2007, an astronomy professor and his student detected a fast radio burst, a phenomenon that has been detected many times in the years since. But the cylindrical instrument, which maps a 3-degree-wide swath of the sky every night, was already a dramatic improvement on more traditional telescopes, which can only focus on a single spot.

"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 Loeb in a statement after the publication of a previous paper in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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.

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Most of the FRBs previously detected had been found at frequencies near 1,400 MHz, well above the CHIME's range of 400 MHz to 800 MHz. Dwindling funds from the USA government and construction of bigger, more powerful telescopes are threatening this telescope's future.

The low frequency of this new detection could mean that the source of the bursts differ.

"These FRBs are really one of the only ways we can probe the intergalactic medium", Shami Chatterjee, an astronomer at Cornell University, told The Verge.

Stairs added: "Knowing where they are will enable scientists to point their telescopes at them, creating an opportunity to study these mysterious signals in detail".

Mysterious repeated blasts of radio signals tracked from deep space have been detected by Canadian astronomers.

One reason CHIME was set on this search was that since the world first started detecting the phenomena, astroboffins have upped their estimates of how many such events exist to somewhere between hundreds and thousands a day.

Additional bursts from the repeating FRB were detected in following weeks by the telescope, which is located in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley.

"It just seems completely inconceivable that there could be that many different alien civilisations all deciding to produce the same kind of signal in the same way - that just seems highly improbable".