Far away from our Milky Way galaxy, something is causing the sending of short radio waves. Scientists have recorded the second burst of repeated radio waves that has been discovered, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
The finding was also presented at the 233rd meeting of the American Astronomy Association in Seattle.
These radio waves are just one-millisecond radio flashes, and those fast bursts are not rare in space.
But this is only the second whose repetition has been discovered. The mystery remains as to why these bursts occur and where they come from, which always drives many to think that they are created by advanced extraterrestrial civilizations.
The first, cataloged as FRB 121102, was discovered in 2015 by the Arecibo radio telescope, and in 2018 it was revealed that the bursts release an enormous amount of energy.
This new rapid and repeated radio wave burst is called FRB 180814.J0422 + 73 and was recorded six times from the same location, 1,500 million light years away.
This is one of the first detections made by the new Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, CHIME). The radio telescope was still in its pre-start phase and was running with a small amount of its total capacity in the summer of 2018, when it detected this and 12 other unique and fast radio bursts.
And although this new detection does not solve the larger mysteries surrounding the radio bursts, the researchers who recorded it believe that they will find other repeated radio bursts that could allow them to discover their origin.
“Knowing that there is another suggests there might be more out there,” said Ingrid Stairs, a member of the CHIME team and astrophysicist at the University of British Columbia. “And with more repeaters and more sources available to study, we may be able to understand these cosmic puzzles: where they come from and what causes them.”
One hypothesis is that powerful astrophysical phenomena are causing them. The first burst was recorded at a frequency of 700 megahertz, but some of the bursts that CHIME recorded were less than 400 megahertz.
“(Now we know) that the sources can produce low frequency waves and those low frequency waves can escape from the environment and are not too scattered to detect them when they reach Earth,” said Tom Landecker, a CHIME member of the Council. National Research Canada, in a statement. “That tells us something about environments and sources, we have not solved the problem, but there are several more pieces in the puzzle.”
The low frequency of this new detection could cause the source of the bursts to differ. “Dispersion” was detected in the rapid bursts of radio, which is a phenomenon that helps to know more about the environment surrounding the origin.
The CHIME team believes that this dispersion is indicative of powerful astrophysical objects at the source of the bursts.
“That could mean that (the source) is in a kind of dense body like a supernova remnant,” team member Cherry Ng, an astronomer at the University of Toronto, said in a statement. “Or near the central black hole in a galaxy, but it has to be somewhere special to give us all the dispersion we see.”
And if CHIME was able to make these detections before it was fully operational, the researchers hope that the new radio telescope will help them find answers about these mysterious signals.