Enigmatic radio waves heard from distant galaxy

enigmatic radio waves
© Denis Belitskiy

The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, have detected new Fast Radio Bursts in a galaxy beyond the Milky Way

On the 7th January 2019, a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, Washington, astronomer Deborah Good said “Look! We see FRBs.”

The Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) described the elusive nature of these FRBs:

“Fast Radio Bursts are brief (few millisecond) bursts of radio waves coming from far beyond our Milky Way galaxy. The phenomenon was first reported in 2007 and as of mid-2017, roughly two dozen have been reported. Their origin is unknown. However, they are ubiquitous: current best estimates suggest these events are arriving at Earth roughly a thousand times per day over the entire sky.”

Whilst their origin remains unknown, scientists have extracted the origin of the recent repeating FRB. It is a dwarf galaxy over 3 billion light-years from our home galaxy, whereas the first FRB repeater was found to originate in a galaxy 2.5 billion light-years away. The presence of FRBs and their promised regularity of activity brings hope of future discovery.”If we had 1,000 examples, we would be able to say many more things about what FRBs are like,” said Good.

The Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) described the original intent of their highly sensitive telescope:

“Good reported the first results from the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME), a telescope that was originally designed to explore the early Universe but has turned out to be ideal for detecting FRBs. First spotted in 2007, FRBs are one of the most intriguing mysteries in astrophysics.”

The telescope is protected in a federally, legally enforced zone of no manmade radio signals, to ensure that the ordinary interferences that cause false observations are omitted. This is the second known documentation of a repeating FRB, whilst the last documented repeater was in 2012. This recent observation was essential to eliminating the dark possibility that 2012 was an anomaly, without any meaningful continuation.

National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) radio dishes of the Very Large Array near Socorro, New Mexico, is where the 2012 FRB was documented. This valuable instrument faces the risk of being closed, due to funding issues invoked by current partial government shutdown in the US.

The secrets of the universe are being explored by researchers like Deborah Good, who spoke for CHIME at the Washington meeting. When there are discoveries about the unknown activities of another universe, there comes a poignant excitement about what happens beyond our known universe amongst the research community and the individual.

The findings of CHIME are published in Nature journal.


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