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posted by janrinok on Thursday June 10, @02:52PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

CHIME Telescope Detects More Than 500 Mysterious Fast Radio Bursts From Outer Space:

To catch sight of a fast radio burst is to be extremely lucky in where and when you point your radio dish. Fast radio bursts, or FRBs, are oddly bright flashes of light, registering in the radio band of the electromagnetic spectrum, that blaze for a few milliseconds before vanishing without a trace.

These brief and mysterious beacons have been spotted in various and distant parts of the universe, as well as in our own galaxy. Their origins are unknown, and their appearance is unpredictable. Since the first was discovered in 2007, radio astronomers have only caught sight of around 140 bursts in their scopes.

Now, a large stationary radio telescope in British Columbia has nearly quadrupled the number of fast radio bursts discovered to date. The telescope, known as CHIME, for the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, has detected 535 new fast radio bursts during its first year of operation, between 2018 and 2019.

Scientists with the CHIME Collaboration, including researchers at MIT, have assembled the new signals in the telescope's first FRB catalog, which they will present this week at the American Astronomical Society Meeting.

The new catalog significantly expands the current library of known FRBs, and is already yielding clues as to their properties. For instance, the newly discovered bursts appear to fall in two distinct classes: those that repeat, and those that don't. Scientists identified 18 FRB sources that burst repeatedly, while the rest appear to be one-offs. The repeaters also look different, with each burst lasting slightly longer and emitting more focused radio frequencies than bursts from single, nonrepeating FRBs.

These observations strongly suggest that repeaters and one-offs arise from separate mechanisms and astrophysical sources. With more observations, astronomers hope soon to pin down the extreme origins of these curiously bright signals.

"Before CHIME, there were less than 100 total discovered FRBs; now, after one year of observation, we've discovered hundreds more," says CHIME member Kaitlyn Shin, a graduate student in MIT's Department of Physics. "With all these sources, we can really start getting a picture of what FRBs look like as a whole, what astrophysics might be driving these events, and how they can be used to study the universe going forward."

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  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, @03:16PM (7 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, @03:16PM (#1143900)

    Astronomers were recently lucky enough to catch a fast radio burst and a corresponding gamma ray burst coming from the same region of space at the exact same time. Also, FRBs and GRBs have also been independantly observed with a corresponding flash of optical light. All of this is evidence of something astronomers have suspected for some time now: That FRBs and GRBs are manifestations of the same cosmic events that radiate insane amounts of energy throughout the entire electromagnetic spectrum. Maybe neutron star mergers, or something of that scale.

    But there are also hypothesis that FRBs are the result of "star quakes" at the surface of magnetars. As usual, more data is needed. I've always believed that a vast collaboration project involving optical, radio, and gamma ray telescopes, as well as data collected from the gravitational wave detectors is what is needed to shed light on these mysterious cosmic events of a scale that the human mind cannot even begin to imagine.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, @03:37PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, @03:37PM (#1143909)

      that's cute.
      but we all know it was tic-tacs accelerating with 700G with their field propulsion system off the coast of the US.

      PS. I don't really know if I'm being funny or if I'm being an asshole here. it's clear there are plenty of people who would take my comment seriously...

    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Thursday June 10, @04:13PM (5 children)

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday June 10, @04:13PM (#1143918)

      At some point I saw something about the difference in time of arrival of GRBs and associated FRBs and bright light flashes which seems like an interesting thing to study.

      On the one hand, Betelgeuse dimming is a fairly benign thing - we're pretty sure we know what it might do at some point and as impressive as the show is expected to be, it's pretty well defined / bounded and shouldn't result in too much additional stress on Earth's ecosystems.

      On the other hand, we know almost nothing about FRBs other than their relative rarity, but the what-if potential is huge. Not even Betelgeuse, maybe a random nearby star encounters a smaller black hole, or something more exotic, and as a result lases Earth with a deadly particle/energy stream - it's the kind of thing we probably wouldn't see coming. It's also the kind of trick that advanced intergalactic civilizations would probably learn how to do on purpose...

      My karma ran over your dogma.
      • (Score: 2) by Socrastotle on Thursday June 10, @04:33PM (1 child)

        by Socrastotle (13446) on Thursday June 10, @04:33PM (#1143928) Journal

        It's also the kind of thing that could, at least potentially, explain the Fermi Paradox. One hypothesis for the Ordovician mass extinction event, was a gamma ray burst.

        • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Thursday June 10, @05:01PM

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday June 10, @05:01PM (#1143946)

          Spoiler alert: the Milky Way's local cluster has been designated a "Level 3 limited" zone by the Universal directorate. Any life found to be capable of interstellar propagation is to be sterilized by narrow beam GRB, after harvest of any interesting cultural artifacts... the primitives can be so amusing sometimes.

          My karma ran over your dogma.
      • (Score: 2) by hendrikboom on Friday June 11, @05:17PM (2 children)

        by hendrikboom (1125) Subscriber Badge on Friday June 11, @05:17PM (#1144302) Homepage Journal

        At some point I saw something about the difference in time of arrival of GRBs and associated FRBs and bright light flashes which seems like an interesting thing to study.

        Doesn't loop quantum gravity predict a very slight difference in the velocity of light depending on frequency? I seen to remember reading that it might amount to a few microseconds after a journey from the farthest known observables.

        Is this of the right magnitude? Is it even in the right direction?

        • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Friday June 11, @05:28PM (1 child)

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday June 11, @05:28PM (#1144309)

          I think the delay was on the order of seconds - maybe 10s of seconds. Article at the time was hypothesizing something about the first wave emanating from the core of the dying star while the later wave waited until the shock wave traveled to its surface, or something along those lines.

          My karma ran over your dogma.
  • (Score: 0, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, @03:57PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, @03:57PM (#1143914)

    Not long ago I was rather extremely interested in such phenomena, even following 'Tabby's Star' / KIC 8462852 / 'that weird dimming star', for months after it left the mainstream press. Not necessarily because [aliens.gif] but just because it was an extremely interesting and bizarre phenomena to study for somebody with a bit of knowledge in astrophysics.

    But now a days at the same time that the government and media are becoming more duplicitous and less trustworthy than ever, they're suddenly hardcore pushing some hardcore 'we're not saying it's aliens [but it's aliens]' narrative which makes me suddenly extremely skeptical of any information which may be able to be tied to such a narrative in any way, shape, or form. I don't know if I'm condemning myself or the political establishment more.

    "We deny any and all knowledge of any sort of evidence or awareness of any extra-terrestrial phenomena" - 'Dude, the truth is totally out there. They're just hiding it from us, because they think we can't take the truth. But we can! It's all bullshit! Those assholes!'

    "We have extensive evidence including observational and material suggesting unknown and possibly extra-terrestrial phenomena" - 'Dude, they're full of shit. I don't know what they're pulling here, but they're just trying to manipulate us. No way they'd ever tell us about stuff like this. I mean, imagine these LGMs were the Chinese - they'd just be roflcoptering at us thinking they're aliens. It's all bullshit! Those assholes!'

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, @04:37PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, @04:37PM (#1143932)

      Most astrophysicists believe that FRBs are violent cosmic events, not extraterrestrials. Like a neutron star colliding with something.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, @05:36PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, @05:36PM (#1143967)

        Don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying, nor implying, it's LGM. I am saying that I expect "they" will, if not for this event then for another stellar phenomena even in lieu of a viable natural explanation.

        "They" in this case being the same people able to shift the official position of dismissing and declaring as tin-foil hattery even there mere suggestion of extra-terrestrial phenomena, to normal and indulging conversation being made front-page news on most of every corporate media site.