Scientists track origin of mysterious signal coming from deep space

mysterious radio signals, frb, fast radio bursts, radio signals, space signals, radio frequency from space, chime

Scientists recorded a repeating signal from deep space. (Representational image: Pixabay)

Detectors on Earth have been picking up strange, sometimes-repeating signals from space for a long time. After being received, these radio bursts disappear in a flash for forever, remaining one of the universe's great mysteries. However, in a recent development, a Canadian-based telescope found a source of radio bursts from space that repeat every 16 days.

According to the study, this is the first time in recorded science history that radio bursts have been picked that repeat with such regular radiofrequency. Known as fast radio bursts (FRB), these signals come from deep space. Scientists discovered the first radio burst in 2001 and have found more of these signals events ever since with the help of Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment Fast Radio Burst (CHIME/FRB) Project.

What is CHIME?

The CHIME is a huge ground-based radio telescope made of four cylinders. It is located in British Columbia, Canada and functions like fixed antennae to map the sky. The instrument is designed to map the emission from hydrogen atoms, and it uses a very wide field-of-view to capture a broad range of electromagnetic radiation frequencies. CHIME is able to hunt FRBs as it scans 1,024 points in the sky at 16,000 different frequencies-- 1,000 times per second.

mysterious radio signals, frb, fast radio bursts, radio signals, space signals, radio frequency from space, chime

CHIME in a late stage of cylinder construction (Image: CHIME website)

Newly found repeating radio bursts

Scientists have found repeating signals in the past as well but the newly found burst, which has been named as FRB 180916.J0158+65, is one of its kind. An international team of scientists led by the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics graduate student Dongzi Li observed that these radio bursts repeat every 16 days. The European Very-long-baseline-interferometry Network (EVN) of telescopes also confirmed the Canadian findings.

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What's the source of these FRB?

The FRB 180916.J0158+65 was itself first discovered in 2018 and pinpointed to a spiral galaxy approximately 500 million light-years away. It was examined over a period of 13 months and found to repeat with a highly regular rhythm-- the first instance of these signals having such a fixed frequency.

Also, sorry to break it to you but these signals do not come from aliens. According to the researchers, the cause for these radio bursts could be a binary star (a system of two stars) accompanied by a third celestial body like a planet. The data doesn't explicitly confirm or deny this hypothesis, and there's a possibility that the source could be a magnetar-- a compact, magnetized neutron star.