For The Second Time, Astronomers Have Picked Up Repeating Fast Radio Bursts Outside The Milky Way


For the second time, astronomers have detected fast radio bursts (FRBs) coming from the exact same region in space outside of the Milky Way, which makes this the first time that they have spotted more than one set of these ubiquitous radio waves in the same location.

As ScienceAlert reports, even when these fast radio bursts are detected, they are normally never seen again. And as scientists are still not certain what these FRBs really are, this makes things all the more baffling.

Astrophysicist Ingrid Stairs, from the University of British Columbia in Canada, explained that with the new discovery of a second set of repeated FRBs, scientists will have much more information at their disposal about this mysterious phenomenon.

“Until now, there was only one known repeating FRB. Knowing that there is another suggests that there could be more out there. And with more repeaters and more sources available for study, we may be able to understand these cosmic puzzles – where they’re from and what causes them.”

The fast radio bursts that were recently detected are officially called FRB 180814.J0422+73, and back in August 2018 these FRBs were observed repeating themselves six times, after they were first spotted by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment radio telescope (CHIME).

When looking at both new and repeated FRBs, the CHIME radio telescope has picked up an astonishing 13 new fast radio bursts and, even better, these observations were only test ones for this particular telescope. Which means that as it wasn’t operating at maximum capacity, in the future when it is, it is very possible that even more FRBs will be detected coming from the same area.

The first repeating fast radio bursts that astronomers originally picked up were found to emanate from FRB 122201, which is located 3 billion light-years away from Earth. However, this is pretty much all scientists know with much certainty about this signal right now.

FRB 180814.J0422+73, by contrast, is much closer to Earth, although these repeated signals were still found to be coming from another galaxy 1.5 billion light-years away from the Milky Way.

Physicist Arun Naidu, from McGill University in Canada, has noted, “Whatever the source of these radio waves is, it’s interesting to see how wide a range of frequencies it can produce. There are some models where intrinsically the source can’t produce anything below a certain frequency.”

Until CHIME or other radio telescopes pick up further FRBs, the two new studies which have just been published about the repeating fast radio bursts can be read here and here in Nature.