Astronomers are busy today talking about a radio signal received from the the deep reaches of outer-space. While there’s no direct indication that the sign was generated by extraterrestrial life, it may have been alien in nature. It could also be a signal put off by the collapse of a black hole. Either way, it is the first of its kind.
The signal, however brief, was picked up by a new radio telescope in Canada. The Fast Radio Burst (FRB), lasted just milliseconds, and was picked up by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) telescope.
For those readers who are technically minded, the burst came in with a frequency below 700 MHz. Researchers say it is the lowest FRB ever recorded.
“FRBs are extremely uncommon,” The Daily Mail writes, “with the abrupt radio emissions first discovered in 2007 and only two dozen examples recorded since.”
The telescope has been operating for less than a year. After a smaller prototype was tested, the larger CHIME was constructed. CHIME now has four 100-meter-long U-shaped frames that help in its detection.
As signals travel across the universe, CHIME is picking up signals generated in billions of years ago.
The data was first reported by Patrick Boyle, of McGill University. He posted on the Astronomer’s Telegram: “During its ongoing commissioning, CHIME/FRM detected FRB 180725A on 2018 July 25 at 17:59:43.115 UTC (18:59:43.15 BST/13:59:43.15 ET).”
“The event is clearly detected at frequencies as low as 580 MHz and represents the first detection of an FRB at radio frequencies below 700 MHz.”
Christopher Conselice, a professor of astrophysics at the University of Nottingham, spoke to The Mail about FRBs.
“We don’t know their origin, they could be caused by a number of things,” he said.
“The fact the lower frequency FRB has been detected provides hope that we can understand more about where they come from and what causes them.”
“They could be caused by exploding stars, supernova, exotic stars like pulsars, magnetars, neutron stars or massive black holes at the center of distant galaxies.”
“It could even be some other physical mechanism that we don’t yet understand.”
It is safe to say that the signal is something we don’t yet understand. That doesn’t mean it isn’t exciting, espescially for those who have devoted their lives to watching the skies.
“Additional FRBs have been found since FRB 180725A and some have flux at frequencies as low as 400 MHz,” Patrick Boyle writes.
“These events have occurred during both the day and night and their arrival times are not correlated with known on-site activities or other known sources of terrestrial RFI (radio frequency interference).”