Radio signals coming from deep space detected in Canada

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

Ever since FRBs were first detected, scientists have been piecing together the signals' observed characteristics to come up with models that might explain the sources of the mysterious bursts and provide some idea of the environments in which they occur.

With CHIME, this concept for telescope design comes of age and is being used for breakthrough science to detect FRBs.

The so-called repeating fast radio bursts were identified during the trial run last summer of a built-for-purpose telescope running at only a fraction of its capacity.

Of more than 60 fast radio bursts detected so far, only one of them has ever repeated.

Having two sets of repeating bursts could also allow scientists to understand what distinguishes them from single bursts, helping them understand more about their source and watch for future blasts. The telescope responsible for these findings, the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, or CHIME, promises to be the most effective FRB hunter in operation. "In principle, there might be two separate types of sources, as in the case of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), where long-duration GRBs (lasting more than a few seconds) are linked to the collapse of massive stars and short-duration GRBs are linked to mergers of neutrons stars".

Scientists are unsure where the bursts originate, but believe they are created by black holes or super-dense neutron stars, according to the Press Association. Astronomers have grappled with this mystery for years because, while they continue to observe bursts, they are still unsure of what causes them.

The bursts were first picked up in 2007 (in data archived since 2001) by Australia's Parkes radio telescope, and only a few dozen have been detected since then.

The CHIME researchers are working with an array of antennas in central New Mexico to pin down the galaxy to which the second repeater belongs.

The other institutions with leading roles are the University of Toronto, the National Research Council of Canada, and the Perimeter Institute. Most of the FRBs previously detected had been found at frequencies near 1,400 megahertz, well above the Canadian telescope's range of 400 megahertz to 800 megahertz.

"Whatever the source of these radio waves is, it's interesting to see how wide a range of frequencies it can produce".

Stairs said that with CHIME, "mapping the entire northern hemisphere every day, we're bound to find more repeaters over time".

"By detecting and characterizing fast radio bursts at different frequencies, we can understand better which theories work and which do not", post-doctoral fellow at McGill University, Shriharsh Tendulkar, told Cnet.

At distances of billions of light years it's obviously very hard to test any of these theories, but detecting more FRBs, especially those that have a habit of repeating, could bring us closer to an explanation.

To which he added: "CHIME is the most prolific FRB hunter in the world and we are looking forward to sharing new results in the upcoming months".

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