MIT says a mysterious radio signal from a distant galaxy has been detected

Canadian Hydrogen Density Mapping Experiment, or CHIME, is a radio telescope in British Columbia, Canada. CHIME was designed to capture radio waves emitted by hydrogen in the early stages of the universe. It can also detect fast radio bursts, or FRBs, and has found hundreds of them, MIT said.

Co-authors on the research include Calvin Leung, Juan Mina-Barra, Caitlin Shen, and Kiyoshi Masui at MIT, along with Danielle Micheli. The university said Mitchell led the discovery of FRB, first as a researcher at McGill University and then as a postdoctoral researcher at MIT.

CHIME picked up a signal from a possible FRB on December 21, 2019, and immediately caught the attention of Micheli, who was examining the data, the university said.

“It was unusual,” Micheli said in the statement. “It wasn’t very long, and it lasted about three seconds, but there were periodic peaks that were remarkably accurate, emitting every millisecond—boom, boom, boom—like a heartbeat.”

The eruption, designated FRB 20191221A, is the longest-running FRB, with the clearest periodic pattern detected to date, MIT said.

While the origin of FRBs It’s uncertainastronomers suspect that the signal could come from A Radio Pulsar or a magnetictwo kinds of neutron stars, which are the collapsed cores of massive stars. The source is located in another galaxy, several billion light years from Earth.

“There aren’t many things in the universe that send out precisely periodic signals,” Micheli said. “An example that we know of in our galaxy are radio and magnetic pulsars, which rotate and produce a beacon-like emission. We think this new signal could be a magnetar or a pulsar on doping.”

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The university said astronomers hope to spot more bursts of FRB 20191221A, which could help improve their understanding of its source, and neutron stars in general.

“This discovery raises the question of what could be causing this extreme signal that we haven’t seen before, and how we can use this signal to study the universe,” Micheli said. “Future telescopes promise to detect thousands of FRBs per month, at which point we may find more of these periodic signals.”


Martin Finucane can be reached at [email protected]

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