Science 3 min read

Low-Frequency Radio Signal From Space Detected by Scientists

Antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), on the Chajnantor Plateau in the Chilean Andes. | ESO/C.Malin |

Antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), on the Chajnantor Plateau in the Chilean Andes. | ESO/C.Malin |

Ground radio telescopes have reportedly detected a mysterious low-frequency radio signal coming from space.

On July 25th, an array of radio telescopes located in Canada identified a mysteriously strong low-frequency radio signal from an unknown source somewhere in space. The radio burst was said to be in the 580 megahertz frequency range, about 200 MHz lower than previous radio waves detected by astronomers.

For decades, astronomers have been on the lookout not just for any evidence about the universe’s origin, but also for hints of life somewhere among the stars. Beyond what our naked eyes can see, space is teeming with radio signals and microwaves spawned by dying stars, solar flares from other suns, black holes, and space dust to list just a few.

Some of these radio waves and energy pulses are from deep space. These rogue signals of unknown origin travel billions of light-years across the universe and hit our planet now and then. Astronomers refer to them as fast radio bursts or FRBs because they tend to last for just a few milliseconds.

FRBs are considered to be among the most mysterious events in the universe. Not only are they fast, but they are also so powerful that a single FRB could produce energy equivalent to 500 million suns in milliseconds. The FRB, now known as FRB 180725A, captured last July by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) was said to be the first FRB under 700 MHz ever detected.

“Additional FRBs have been found since FRB 180725A, and some have flux at frequencies as low as 400 MHz. These events have occurred during both the day and night and their arrival times are not correlated with known on-site activities or other known sources of terrestrial RFI,” Patrick Boyle, the project manager of CHIME, wrote in The Astronomer’s Telegram.

Recent studies point to a neutron star from a small galaxy 3 billion light-years away as the source of a repeating FRB discovered last year.

“FRBs are like incredibly powerful flashlights that we think can penetrate this fog [of the interstellar medium] and be seen over vast distances,” Anastasia Fialkov, a researcher from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said. “This could allow us to study the ‘dawn’ of the Universe in a new way.”

With more sophisticated radio telescopes and instruments, astronomers remain hopeful that they would soon be able to narrow down the origins of the FRBs reaching Earth.

Aside from evidence about the early beginnings of our universe, what other valuable information do you believe FRBs hold?

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Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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