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Scientists Pick Up Radio Signal From Unknown Source In The Universe

Something 'extremely powerful' sent a quick radio signal burst that reached Earth from across the universe, according to Canadian scientists. Experts are now investigating the possible source.

The signal was the lowest frequency ever, and one of only a handful of radio emissions ever detected. The very brief signal has stirred a great deal of excitement among scientists studying the phenomena.

The signal was picked up in Canada by the state-of-the-art Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) telescope. It lasted only a few milliseconds, but quickly caught the attention of researchers.

The emission is known as a Fast Radio Burst (FRB), and has been dubbed 'FRB 180725A'. It's one of only a handful of such radio bursts that have been discovered, the first of which was received in 2007. Of all bursts that had come before, this was the lowest ever, with a frequency of 580 MHz. This is the first FRB below 700 MHz.

Scientists are investigating the FBRs, considering a number of potential sources. Christopher Conselice, astrophysics professor from the University of Nottingham, says this newest FBR can help researchers finally learn what causes them.

"We don't know their origin, they could be caused by a number of things," he tells the Daily Mail. "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."

Another exciting possibility is that the FRBs are coming from an extraterrestrial life source. Though this has yet to be confirmed, it isn’t a possibility to rule out.

This signal in particular, which came from the depths of space, is extremely powerful. Research into FRBs only began 10 years ago, so they are still a mystery.

"Fast radio bursts are exceedingly bright given their short duration and origin at great distances, and we haven't identified a possible natural source with any confidence," said Avi Loeb, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics research institute. "An artificial origin is worth contemplating and checking."

The CHIME telescope was put into operation in 2017, and was built to detect signals from when the universe was between 6 billion and 11 billion years old. The universe is estimated to be over 13 billion years old.

The telescope records frequencies in hopes of helping researchers understand why the universe is expanding at an accelerated rate. It also monitors pulsars and other radio transients, and will potentially help scientists understand galactic magnetic fields better.

With this telescope, Canada has put itself in the forefront of research into these mysterious FRBs. The telescope, which uses technology similar to that used by cell phones, will be able to pick up more FRBs than ever before, including weaker radio signals from the universe that previously could not be detected. Most of these signals thus far come from our own galaxy, the Milky Way, but some are from beyond and can answer a lot of questions about the universe.

Source: Dailymail
Photos: Dailymail Screenshot, Flickr/Mark Klotz, Tom Hall, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

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