One of the biggest mysteries in the Universe is crawling closer to answers.
(TMU) — Back in 2007, scientists discovered a new kind of cosmic anomaly—fast radio bursts, also known as FRBs—that some speculated could actually be intergalactic signals originating from advanced extraterrestrial civilizations. Since then, astronomers have identified dozens of FRBs and the controversy over their significance has only grown.
As previously reported by the Mind Unleashed, at the start of 2019 scientists reportedly observed FRBs coming from somewhere deep in space in what was only the second time repeated blasts of signals of this type had ever been recorded. Now, an international team of researchers has discovered eight new FRBs that may hold important clues to resolving the mystery once and for all.
The international team used the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) radio telescope for their new discoveries, which are considered especially important because they are repeating FRBs. Many of the previously documented signals are one-offs—milliseconds-long surges in radio data—that are difficult to study or trace due to how brief they are. But repeating bursts allow scientists to study the source galaxy environments of whatever extraordinary phenomena may be continuously discharging energy emissions equivalent, in some cases, to 500 million Suns.
The new FRBs are significant to scientists for a number of reasons. They demonstrate what is referred to as “downward frequency drift” and their repeating nature allows astronomers to study the polarisation and dispersal of the signals. Such information is critical in piecing the puzzle together.
“I just think it is so amazing that nature produces something like that,” physicist Ziggy Pleunis said of the new discovery. “Also, I think that there is some very important information in that structure that we just have to figure out how to encode and it has been a lot of fun to try to figure out what exactly that is.”
While many scientists maintain that the most likely explanation for FRBs is a natural source, such as the extreme magnetic environments surrounding black holes or neutron stars, polarisation data from the new signals suggests that not all of the bursts originate in extreme environments. And there are plenty of scientists who believe speculative hypotheses can’t be discounted. In fact, one of the original papers on FRBs presented the signals as potentially originating from massive extragalactic light sails constructed by advanced species who want to harness the power of stars for interstellar travel and energy production.
While the eight new FRBs likely won’t crack the mystery, they will put scientists on slightly more stable ground in their efforts to decode the intriguing cosmic mystery. The paper describing their findings will be published by the Astrophysical Journal Letters and is available on preprint server arXiv.
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