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A repeating FRB, however, provides more opportunities for scientists to learn about these radio bursts and where they come from.

We may soon find out thanks to some mysterious signals that were recently picked up by a telescope in British Columbia.

Good and McGill University astrophysicist Victoria Kaspi discussed the CHIME/FRB Collaboration's findings during a briefing at the American Astronomical Society's winter meeting in Seattle.

The researchers said that studying the fast radio bursts is a hard task because they're rare and only occur once.

"Until now, there was only one known repeating [fast radio bursts]".

The fast radio bursts (FRBs) are millisecond-long flashes of radio waves of unknown origin, and scientists have formulated several different theories as to how they might be generated.

"And with more repeaters and more sources available for study, we may be able to understand these cosmic puzzles - where they're from and what causes them", he said.

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Since FRBs occur so quickly, studying them and identifying the source is hard. Whatever they are, CHIME's initial detections suggest that the $13 million radio telescope will be a powerful tool for tracking down more of the bursts. The mystery about why these bursts happen and where they come from continues, which always spurs believers to think that advanced extraterrestrial civilizations are creating them. They could be the result of magnetars, or rapidly spinning neutron stars that have been strongly magnetized. CHIME scans the entirety of the Northern Hemisphere every day and is expected to pick up dozens of FRBs per month when operating at full capacity.

Artist's impression of the active galactic nucleus shows the supermassive black hole at the center of the accretion disk sending a narrow high-energy jet of matter into space, perpendicular to the disc in this image by Science Communication Lab in Kiel Germany, released on July 12, 2018.

The first FRB was spotted, or rather "heard" by radio telescopes, back in 2001 but wasn't discovered until 2007 when scientists were analysing archival data.

The FRBs discovered were omitting unusually low frequencies, with previously detected FRBs having frequencies around 1,400 megahertz and the new discoveries bellow 800 MHz. In some of the 13 cases, the signal at the lower end of the band was so bright that it seems likely other FRBs will be detected at frequencies even lower than CHIME's minimum of 400 MHz.

"Whatever the source of these radio waves is, it's interesting to see how wide a range of frequencies it can produce".

The CHIME team, which designed and built the telescope, includes 14 scientists from the University of B.C. alongside others from McGill University, the University of Toronto, the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and the National Research Council of Canada.

Loeb said we now know of two repeaters out of about 60 known sources, which "implies that the repeater population is not negligible but also represents a small minority, less than a tenth, of the entire population of FRB sources".


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