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Astronomers Detect Mysterious Radio Wave Far Away From Milky Way

CHIME is composed of four, 100-meter long half-pipe cylinders of metal mesh, which reconstruct images of the sky by processing the radio signals recorded by more than a thousand antennas.

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Space, astronomers
Part of a 64-dish radio telescope system is seen during an official unveiling ceremony, July 13, 2018, in Carnarvon, South Africa. A Canadian radio telescope has detected repeating radio waves from deep space. VOA

Astronomers in Canada have detected a mysterious volley of radio waves from far outside our galaxy, according to two studies published Wednesday in Nature.

What corner of the universe these powerful waves come from and the forces that produced them remain unknown.

The so-called repeating fast radio bursts were identified during the trial run last summer of a built-for-purpose telescope running at only a fraction of its capacity.

Known by its acronym CHIME, the world’s most powerful radio telescope, spread across an area as big as a football pitch, is poised to detect many more of the enigmatic pulses now that it is fully operational.

“At the end of the year, we may have found 1,000 bursts,” said Deborah Good, a PhD student at the University of British Columbia and one of 50 scientists from five institutions involved in the research.

 

Saraswati, astronomers
Earth is part of the Milky way galaxy. Wikimed

 

High energy bursts

Fast radio bursts (FRBs) flash only for a micro-instant, but can emit as much energy as the sun does in 10,000 years.

Exactly what causes these high-energy surges of long waves at the far end of the electromagnetic spectrum remains the subject of intense debate.

More than 60 bursts have been cataloged since 2007, but only one other, observed in 2012 at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, was a repeater.

“FRBs, it seems, are likely generated in dense, turbulent regions of host galaxies,” Shriharsh Tendulkar, a corresponding author for both studies and an astronomer at McGill University, told AFP.

Cosmic convulsions created by the turbulent gas clouds that give rise to stars, or stellar explosions such a supernovae, are both possible incubators.

But consecutive radio bursts are a special case.

Space, Astronomers
The world’s largest single-dish radio telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, photographed July 13, 2016. Dwindling funds from the U.S. government and construction of bigger, more powerful telescopes are threatening this telescope’s future. VOA

No little green men

“The fact that the bursts are repeated rules out any cataclysmic models in which the source is destroyed while generating the burst,” Tendulkar added.

“An FRB emitted from a merger of two neutron stars, or a neutron star and a black hole, for example, cannot repeat.”

It is not yet clear whether the breeding grounds of repeating bursts are different from those that produce only a single radio pulse.

Significantly, the 2012 and 2018 “repeaters” have strikingly similar properties.

CHIME (Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment) also spotted a dozen single burst radio waves, but with an unusual profile.

Most FRBs spotted so far have wavelengths of a few centimeters, but these had intervals of nearly a meter, opening up a whole new line of inquiry for astronomers.

Could these enigmatic radio pulses point to intelligence elsewhere in the Universe? Might they be messages in a bottle?

SpaceX, Astronomers
The night sky is lit up above Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, during the launch of a SpaceX rocket carrying an Argentine Earth-observation satellite. VOA

“It is extremely, extremely unlikely,” Tendulkar said.

“As a scientist I can’t rule it out 100 percent. But intelligent life is not on the minds of any astronomer as a source of these FRBs.”

Constructed in British Columbia, CHIME is composed of four, 100-meter long half-pipe cylinders of metal mesh, which reconstruct images of the sky by processing the radio signals recorded by more than a thousand antennas.

Also Read: Astronauts Would Be Able to Grow Beans in Space in 2021: NASA

“This signal processing system is the largest of any telescope on Earth,” the researchers said in a communique.

The other institutions with leading roles are the University of Toronto, the National Research Council of Canada, and the Perimeter Institute. (VOA)

Next Story

Major Achievement! Scientists Take The First-Ever Image of Black Hole

At the press conference, researchers told the story about how it was much quicker to take the data by plane to the various supercomputers being used to analyze the information.

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Black Hole
An image of the black hole at the center of Messier 87, a massive galaxy in the nearby Virgo galaxy cluster. This black hole resides 55 million light-years from Earth and has a mass 6.5-billion times that of the sun. VOA

Using eight radio telescopes literally spanning the globe, scientists have taken the first-ever photograph of a black hole.

The supermassive black hole is at the center of a huge galaxy called M-87, which is 55 million light-years from Earth.

The picture, the result of decades of work by the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration (EHTC), isn’t much to look at. It’s a fuzzy orange and yellow donut floating in space, but the implications for physics, and the incredibly intricate way that researchers got the picture, is science at its best.

The picture is exactly what scientists, particularly the late Albert Einstein, predicted it would look like. There is the eponymous center black hole where gravity is so powerful even light cannot escape, and a circular area of superheated energy rotating around the celestial entity at nearly the speed of light, called the event horizon.

“We now know that a black hole that weighs 6.5 billion times what our sun does exists in the center of M-87,” EHTC scientist Shep Doeleman announced at a press conference Wednesday in Washington. “And this is the strongest evidence that we have to date for the existence of black holes.”

This picture is so important because while scientists have been seeing the effects that black holes have on the structures around them, they have never actually seen one, and this photo in effect proves their existence, as well as one of the foundational principles of Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

200 scientists

At its center, the black hole is so big that even though it’s a long distance away, scientists reasoned it was likely to be the largest such structures viewable from Earth. For that reason, M-87 was chosen for the experiment.

More than 200 scientists worked for about a decade to link the global network of eight radio telescopes, using atomic clocks. One by one in an exact sequence, the instruments were pointed at M-87 at what was, in effect, the same time, back in April 2017.

When the experiment was over, the researchers had five petabytes — or a million gigabytes — of visual information to review. At the press conference, researchers told the story about how it was much quicker to take the data by plane to the various supercomputers being used to analyze the information. They said this was easier than trying to transfer that much data into the cloud.

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The supermassive black hole is at the center of a huge galaxy called M-87, which is 55 million light-years from Earth.Pixabay

It took two weeks for a group of supercomputers to analyze the data and begin to form all the collected information into the modest photo that scientists released Wednesday.

Also Read: Chinese Researchers Reveal Mechanism of Chronic Stress Promoting Breast Cancer Development

And once that photo was collected, the researchers waited two years to publish their data while scientists from all over the world checked their work and signed off on the idea that what was photographed was actually a black hole.

What happens now?

The team isn’t done, though. They already are planning to create even bigger telescopes than the Earth-sized one they used by incorporating space telescopes like the Hubble and the soon-to-be-launched James Webb Space Telescope. This should allow researchers to take photos of dozens of other black holes. (VOA)