Second mysterious radio burst detected in space

The CHIME Pathfinder telescope at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory near Penticton British Columbia Canada. The Pathfinder is a prototype for the full CHIME telescope

Two of the new observations are particularly special: one, by showing the lowest "dispersion measure" ever reported for an FRB, is probably among the closest observed and the other is just the second repeating FRB ever identified.

The findings were announced by Deborah Good, an astronomer at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington on Wednesday. Whatever they are, CHIME's initial detections suggest that the $13 million radio telescope will be a powerful tool for tracking down more of the bursts.

The radio waves were detected by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME), the world's most powerful radio telescope, spread across an area as big as a football pitch.

The telescope processes radio signals recorded by thousands of atennas with a large signal processing system and is the largest of any on earth.

When the first fast radio burst was detected, in 2007, many scientists thought it had to be a result of some telescopic mix-up. A newly published study reveals that scientists have detected a second source of these repeat fast radio bursts, as well as multiple FRBs from different locations.

Another interesting twist has to do with the radio frequencies of the newly detected bursts.

Canadian scientists have detected 13 new fast radio bursts, those mysterious, split-second, high-energy pulses that reach us from unknown origins billions of light-years away.

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Artist's impression of the active galactic nucleus shows the supermassive black hole at the center of the accretion disk sending a narrow high-energy jet of matter into space, perpendicular to the disc in this image by Science Communication Lab in Kiel Germany, released on July 12, 2018.

More likely, CHIME's Shiryash Tendulkar says, is the possibility that they come from a "very strongly magnetized, rapidly spinning neutron star called a millisecond magnetar".

The FRBs discovered were omitting unusually low frequencies, with previously detected FRBs having frequencies around 1,400 megahertz and the new discoveries bellow 800 MHz.

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

The only other detected repeating FRB signal was picked up in November 2012. The $16-million investment for CHIME was provided by the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the governments of British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec, with additional funding from the Dunlap Institute, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. "But it has to be in some special place to give us all the scattering that we see".

"By understanding these propagation effects and being able to separate them from the intrinsic characteristics of FRBs, we hope to be able to use FRBs as probes of the electron distribution and magnetic field distribution in the Universe which would tell us about how the Universe built up structures, such as galaxies, galaxy clusters, and so on", explained Tendulkar.

Added Landecker: "We haven't solved the problem, but it's several more pieces in the puzzle".

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