A Signal Far, Far Away

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For more than a decade, astronomers have been detecting strange and quick radio waves coming from space billions of light-years away.

Known as “fast radio bursts,” these intense, rapid signals emerge from unknown regions of the universe and last about a millisecond.

Since 2007, scientists have discovered hundreds of them but recently they came across the longest FBR ever found, USA Today reported.

In their study, a research team wrote that the new signal is the longest-lasting one to date – around three seconds, which makes it about 1,000 times greater than the average FBR.

But the new FBR also had a unique pattern: The team found that the radio wave bursts repeated every 0.2 seconds, a pattern resembling a “heartbeat.”

They added that the origins of the FBR – named FRB 20191221A – remain murky and it’s unclear which galaxy generated the space signal. But they suggested that the emissions are similar to a radio pulsar or a magnetar, two types of neutron stars.

Neutron stars emerge when big stars die and their cores collapse.

Scientists first found FRB 20191221A in 2019 via a radio telescope called Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment. They hope that building more telescopes could facilitate the finding of more FBRs.

Co-author Daniele Michilli said that detecting FBRs provides information about their possible origins “and it gives us a new tool that, maybe in the future, we’ll be able to (use for discovering) new information about the universe.”

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