Astronomers from the University of British Columbia have picked up 13 radio burst signals emanating from an unknown source they claim is about 1.5 billion light years away.
A team of scientists behind a telescope located in BC's Okanagan Valley have found the second repeating fast radio burst (FRB) ever recorded, which they said provides new clues about the puzzling pulses of radio energy from far outside our own galaxy.
"Until now, there was only one known repeating FRB".
This sudden influx of tantalising clues has made astrophysicists nearly giddy.
Over a period of three weeks last summer the team detected 13 of the flashes using a new type of radio telescope, the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (Chime). CHIME scans the entirety of the Northern Hemisphere every day and is expected to pick up dozens of FRBs per month when operating at full capacity.
The remaining steps in the CHIME pipeline are L3 (flux estimation, source identification, extragalactic check, and an action decision); and L4 (action implementation, database operations to store header data, intensity data, and baseband data; offline analysis and a Web interface with alerts). "We would like to accurately localise them and understand which galaxies they are coming from. Our data will break open some of the mysteries of FRBs".
Of more than 60 FRBs detected to date, such repeating bursts have only been picked up once before, by the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico in 2015.
"Different emission mechanisms expect that FRBs will be emitted within a certain range of radio frequencies, much like a light bulb can not emit X-rays or a microwave oven can not emit ultraviolet light", Tendulkar told Gizmodo.
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Among them is Professor Avid Loeb, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics in the USA, who believes that they could be evidence of incredibly advanced alien technology.
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.
Interestingly, astrophysicist Emily Petroff, the first person to identify a FRB in real time, pointed out the similarities between the new "repeater" and the only other one to have been discovered. "We still have a sample size of only two".
A blitzar is a rapidly spinning neutron star which collapses under its own weight and forms a black hole.
In 2007, astronomers discovered a new phenomenon that they called an FRB.
But that's just one of the riddles associated with this "fantastic phenomenon", said Tendulkar.
While the idea that FRBs are a sign of alien activity hasn't been entirely ruled out, the majority of experts think chances are pretty slim. Seven of those were measured at the lowest frequency yet detected, suggesting that there could be even more of them at frequencies too low to measure.
It's within the realm of possibility, he said, that there are several types of FRB, each created by a different kind of celestial cataclysm.
"It's a cataclysmic event - it doesn't work for fast radio burst repeaters", he says.