A new telescope, the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment or CHIME, picks up bizarre fast radio bursts coming from unknown location billions of light-years from Earth.
The point of origin of FRBs and the exact events that trigger them generally remain a mystery in the scientific field. Astronomers have so far detected 40 FRBs within a period of 10 years. Some theories are that FRBs were produced by colliding neutron stars or black holes or during supernovae explosions. Nothing, however, has been established so far. Others believed they may have been coming from aliens.
Now, the FRB detected by CHIME adds to its mystery because it is the lowest-frequency burst ever discovered. This suggests that the origin of this particular FRB may even be farther than its counterparts.
CHIME Picks Up Mysterious Frequencies
In a Twitter thread, Emily Petroff, an astrophysicist from the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, explained the significance of the recent discovery.
Petroff explained that CHIME is mainly targeted at looking for hydrogen in the early universe from space. However, due to its extra sensitivity, the new telescope has become an ideal apparatus to detect FRBs. The instrument can scour more than 200 square degrees of the sky, which is far larger than what other similar telescopes can detect. With regard to the size of the sky in the universe, that is about 0.5 percent of the sky's dimension, according to Petroff.
The radio burst detected by CHIME appears to be normal for an FRB in terms of its duration. As mentioned above, however, it is the lowest frequency detection of an FRB ever made. Petroff had also heavily emphasized this point in her Twitter thread.
CHIME has scoured between 400 and 800 MHz. Most of the FRBs it detected were between 1,000 and 1,500 MHz. The lowest frequency an FRB was detected was at 700 MHz. The FRB detected by CHIME was seen down to ~580 MHz. The astronomers behind the discovery said they have detected more FRBs that are seen down to 400 MHz.
The CHIME telescope is located at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory, a national facility for astronomy operated by the National Research Council of Canada. According to its website, the site is protected against man-made radio frequency interference produced by municipal, provincial, and federal regulation.
Radio Bursts From Beyond The Galaxy
In 2013, NASA detected the first population of FRBs known to be coming from galaxies beyond the Milky Way. They were coming from billions of light-years away and lasted for just a few milliseconds. The farthest FRB detected at the time was 11 billion light-years away. Before this, there was one radio burst detected, but researchers said it was unclear whether it was coming from within or outside the galaxy.