A BC telescope has detected repeating radio signals from deep outerspace

Somebody call Tom DeLonge

Somebody get Tom DeLonge on the phone. A team of scientists in BC’s Okanagan Valley have just found the second repeating fast radio burst (FRB) recorded in history, which they claim provides new clues about the bizarre pulses of radio energy from way outside of our galaxy.

This repeating FRB was one of a whopping 13 new bursts that the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) has detected in a matter of two weeks. These discoveries were outlined in two papers in Nature and presented at an American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle.

CHIME is a radio telescope designed and created by scientists from University of British Columbia, University of Toronto, McGill University, the National Research Council of Canada, and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.

“Until now, there was only one known repeating FRB,” CHIME team member and UBC astrophysicist Ingrid Stairs explained. “Knowing that there is another suggests that there could be more out there.”

Stairs went on to explain that knowing where they are will allow scientists to move their telescopes in that direction to study the cryptic signals in detail.

These discoveries have been especially noteworthy considering the telescope was only running at a fraction of its full capacity at the time. “We’re very excited to see what CHIME can do when it’s running at full capacity,” UBC PhD student in physics and astronomy Deborah Good explained. “At the end of a year we may have found 1,000 more bursts. Our data will break open some of the mysteries of FRBs.”

Where most FRBs have only been spotted at wavelengths reaching a few centimetres, the latest discoveries were detected at wavelengths of nearly a metre.

“[We now know that] the sources can produce low-frequency radio waves and those low-frequency waves can escape their environment, and are not too scattered to be detected by the time they reach the Earth,” CHIME team member from the National Research Council Tom Landecker explains. “That tells us something about the environments and the sources.