Scientists have announced the discovery of a repeating radio signal coming from deep space. Known as a fast radio burst, or FRB, the signal repeated six times, with each burst lasting a few milliseconds. Most previously detected FRBs are one-off events and initially led scientists to believe cataclysmic cosmic events were the cause. However, repeating FRBs could suggest something different.
FRBs were first discovered around two decades ago. Since then, dozens have been detected by scientists from across the globe.
While one-off FRBs could be created by certain cosmic events, like the collision of two neutron stars, repeating FRBs may have another origin. In 2016, FRB121101 produced 10 bursts and was tracked to a dwarf galaxy approximately 3 billion light years away. When 15 more bursts were produced by FRB 121102 in 2017, scientists knew that a single cataclysmic event couldn’t be responsible.
According to the Independent, a report released by scientists from the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) / FRB Collaboration has confirmed the discovery of another repeating FRB.
The burst, known as FRB 180814.J0422+73, repeated the signal six times and seemed to originate from around 1.5 billion light years away, about half the distance of FRB 121102.
The signal from FRB 180814.J0422+73 shares some similarities with FRB 121102. Both have “similar emission mechanisms and/or propagation effects,” said the scientists. The team also believes, since this second repeater was located, it suggests there could be a “substantial population of repeating FRBs” throughout deep space.
“Until now, there was only one known repeating FRB,” said Ingrid Stairs, a member of the CHIME team and one of the study’s authors, in a statement. “Knowing that there is another suggests that there could be more out there. And with more repeaters and more sources available for study, we may be able to understand these cosmic puzzles—where they’re from and what causes them.”