A new radio telescope in Canada has picked up a mysterious new radio signal believed to have come from deep space. A radio telescope called the Canadian Hydrogen Mapping Intensity Experiment (CHIME) discovered a transient radio pulse of unknown origin, commonly termed a fast radio burst (FRB). Details of the signal were posted to The Astronomer’s Telegram, an online bulletin board of observations posted by accredited researchers.
The first FRB was discovered in 2007, but nobody has an idea where the signals come from. They typically last for a few milliseconds and scientists believe they travel billions of light years before hitting the telescopes on Earth. They occur at different frequencies, so there may be different varieties of FRBs coming from different sources.
There are a number of hypotheses regarding the source of the FRBs. The most recent research suggests the source is a neutron star. Other possible sources include black holes, imploding pulsars, gamma-ray bursts, or a type of star called a blitzar. Because the vast majority of the signals are only ever detected once, it is difficult for scientists to pinpoint a cause.
The new signal, detected by researchers at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in British Columbia, is especially intriguing because it was at a much lower frequency than the ones detected previously. Typically, FRBs are detected somewhere at a frequency ranging from 1000 to 1500MHz. Previously, the lowest FRB frequency was about 700MHz. The researchers were surprised to find that this signal was transmitted at the 580-megahertz frequency range.
Patrick Boyle, one of the astronomers behind the discovery and project manager of CHIME, said that scientists witnessed few more low-frequency FRBs after the original detection. He said that they occurred during the day and night and were not found to be related to any on-site activity or known sources of radio frequency interference. The detection has not been independently verified and the details have not been submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.