The bevy of high-speed flashes came from 1.5 billion light-years away, and they include one exceedingly rare repeating burst.
Photo: Stars hang over the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, or CHIME, at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in Kaleden, British Columbia.
Astronomers have detected 13 high-speed bursts of radio waves coming from deep space—including one that regularly repeats. While the exact sources remain unknown, the new bevy of mysterious blasts does offer fresh clues to where and why such flashes appear across the cosmos.
Fast radio bursts, as they are known to scientists, are among the universe's most bizarre phenomena. Each burst lasts just thousandths of a second, and they all appear to be coming from far outside our home galaxy, the Milky Way.
Since these bursts were discovered in 2007, their cause has remained a puzzle. Based on estimations of the known range of their frequencies and an understanding of activity in the universe, scientists expect that nearly a thousand of them happen every day. But to date, only a handful have been found.
Now, a team using the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, or CHIME, has announced the additional 13 new detections, including an especially rare repeating burst. Until now, only one other repeating fast radio burst was known to exist.“The repeater,” as it being called, and its 12 counterparts came from a region of space some 1.5 billion light-years away, the team reports today in the journal Nature. All 13 new bursts have the lowest radio frequency yet detected, but they were also brighter than previously seen fast radio bursts, leading the team to think the low frequency has something to do with the sources’ environment.