Scientists have discovered mysterious repeating radio bursts coming from space for the first time since 2007. Harvard University Professor Abraham Loeb past year said FRBs could originate from planet-sized transmitters that are used to propel giant spaceships by bouncing radio waves off their huge reflective sheets.
The repeating FRB detected this past summer by CHIME is only the second one of its kind ever recorded, following one that was detected in 2012. 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. The new signal is known as FRB 180814.J0422+73.
This sudden influx of tantalising clues has made astrophysicists nearly giddy.
CHIME has been fully operational since September.
"Until now, there was only one known repeating FRB", said a Chime astrophysicist, Dr Ingrid Stairs, from the University of British Columbia. "But I think we're reaching the peak of that mountain".
But, from whatever little data exists, most scientists do not believe that FRBs are attempts by aliens to contact us.
The first repeated burst was discovered by the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico in 2015.
"This is good news for radio telescopes that are sensitive at lower radio frequencies", she said. They're milliseconds in length and are typically thought to come from powerful space shit like black holes or super-dense neutron stars, but some researchers reckon they could even be evidence of advanced alien civilisations. Some scientists suspect that these radio waves originate from black hole activity or solar flares that travel from billions of light-years away.
The paper noted that this dedispersion transform, in which signals are converted from time and frequency, into time and dispersion measure, to allow "efficient detection of dispersed impulse signals". "But we have to be careful".
"Whatever the source of these radio waves is, it is interesting to see how wide a range of frequencies it can produce", said Arun Naidu of McGill University, who was also part of the team of researchers who studied the signals.
"The CHIME frequency band sits in this gap where we didn't know anything about, so that's fantastic", Tendulkar said. Experts speculate one of these could be the source of FRBs. 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.
"When these bursts happen once only, it's really hard to figure out what created them", Cherry Ng, with the University of Toronto, told The Verge. To search for FRBs, the telescope will continuously scan the sky for 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The signals travel billions of light-years through the cosmos but only last a fraction of a second, making them hard to study. While interesting, these new observations, he said, can not tell us about the nature of these sources-at least not yet.