Enigmatic Radio Signal Picked Up By The CHIME Telescope Throws Astronomers For A Loop

Alexandra Lozovschi - Author

Aug. 2 2018, Updated 10:37 a.m. ET

Canada’s brand-new CHIME telescope just picked up a mysterious radio signal from deep space and astronomers are puzzling over what or who could have sent it, reports the International Business Times.

The strange signal has been classified as a Fast Radio Burst (FRB) — one of the most perplexing phenomena in the universe, of which only two dozen have ever been recorded, notes the Daily Mail.

Yet, unlike the previous FRBs detected by our telescopes, this particular signal, dubbed FRB 180725A, is even more enigmatic. According to the sources, this is the lowest frequency FRB in history — picked up by CHIME at a frequency below 700 MHz.

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Although scientists have yet to decipher where FRB 180725A originated from, its unexpectedly low frequency has driven them to speculate that whatever source sent this signal across the universe is likely “extremely powerful,” states the Daily Mail.

First Of Its Kind

The mysterious low-frequency FRB was picked up by the CHIME telescope (short for Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment) on July 25 at 17:59 UTC (13:59 ET).

The £12-million ($15.6 million) installation, set up in British Columbia, only began operations last year and is equipped with four 100-meter-long (328 feet) U-shaped cylinders, capable of recording ancient radio signals sent out when the universe was no more than six billion years old.


But FRB 180725A had a few more surprises in store. As it later turned out, the unusual radio signal was just the first in a completely new wave of low-frequency FRBs detected by CHIME in the days to follow.

This unprecedented discovery was presented yesterday in the journal Astronomer’s Telegram by Patrick Boyle of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, who elaborated on the characteristics of the other radio signals.

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“Additional FRBs have been found since FRB 180725A and some have flux at frequencies as low as 400 MHz. These events have occurred during both the day and night and their arrival times are not correlated with known on-site activities or other known sources of terrestrial RFI [radio-frequency interference].”

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Meanwhile, FRB 180725A was “clearly detected at frequencies as low as 580 MHz and represents the first detection of an FRB at radio frequencies below 700 MHz,” Boyle wrote in his report.

Unknown Source In Deep Space

The question that remains is uncovering where these signals have come from, with many possible theories being thrown into the mix.

As the Inquisitr previously reported, FRBs were first discovered in 2001 and documented only a decade ago. Not much is known about these short, high-energy signals, except that they have been attributed to a number of different potential sources, one more exotic than the other.

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In an interview with the Daily Mail, astrophysics professor Christopher Conselice of the University of Nottingham in the U.K. discusses the possible sources of FRBs, noting that the recently-discovered low-frequency signals might shed new light into what causes this intriguing phenomenon.

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“They could be caused by exploding stars, supernova, exotic stars like pulsars, magnetars, neutron stars or massive black holes at the center of distant galaxies. It could even be some other physical mechanism that we don’t yet understand.”

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Researchers are not ruling out the possibility that these fast radio signals, which only last a few milliseconds, might be sent out by an advanced alien civilization residing in the depths of space.

The study of FRBs is only in its incipient stages and astronomers are confident that more such radio signals will be detected as our technology progresses.

The previous FRB detection before the July 25 event occurred this March, when scientists picked up three signals, including the strongest one in over a decade, the Inquisitr reported at the time.


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