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China’s biggest telescope detects 100 mysterious signals from three billion light years away

Extra.ie logo Extra.ie 4 days ago Aoibhin Bryant
a view of a mountain © Provided by Associated Newspapers (Ireland) Limited, t/a dmg Media Ireland

China’s largest telescope has been picking up more than 100 mysterious signals coming from a source around three billion light years away from Earth.

These strange signals are known as Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) – pulses of radio waves coming from unknown cosmos in space.

Officials say that the telescope, situated in Guizhou, has detected over 100 FRBs and the source is designated FRB121102 – three billion light years away.

a view of a mountain: signals © Provided by Associated Newspapers (Ireland) Limited, t/a dmg Media Ireland signals The pulses are currently being analysed and cross-checked by experts at the Chinese Academy of Sciences to understand more about the region these signals are coming from.

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The Chinese telescope is a whopping 500 metre fixed diametre Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope.

It is also known as FAST or by the nickname Tianyan.

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FRBs are radio emissions that are incredibly hard to find and hard to study due to the fact they appear very temporarily and very randomly.

a star filled sky © Provided by Associated Newspapers (Ireland) Limited, t/a dmg Media Ireland

Usually the pulses ‘one-offs” but some do repeat in the same location.

Many theories surround the existence of FRBs although it is not believed to come from alien technology.

Some speculate that they are a by-product of a neutron star colliding with a black hole.

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Another theory suggested that they could be neutron stars with very powerful magnetic fields, so-called ‘magnetars’.

These theories raised doubts after an FRB (FRB 190523) was detected and attributed to a spiral galaxy similar to the Milky Way at around 7.9 billion light-years away.

‘The theory that FRBs come from magnetars was developed in part because the earlier FRB 121102 came from an active star-forming environment, where young magnetars can be formed in the supernovae of massive stars,’ Vikram Ravi, assistant professor of astronomy at Caltech told The Metro. ‘But the host galaxy of FRB 190523 is more mellow in comparison.’

a close up of a bridge: signals © Provided by Associated Newspapers (Ireland) Limited, t/a dmg Media Ireland signals

‘This finding tells us that every galaxy, even a run-of-the-mill galaxy like our Milky Way, can generate an FRB,’ said Ravi.

‘Finding the locations of the one-off FRBs is challenging because it requires a radio telescope that can both discover these extremely short events and locate them with the resolving power of a mile-wide radio dish.’

Luckily for astronomers, China’s telescope FAST will allow them to detect the origins of FRBs with significantly greater accuracy and ease.

It’s the largest and most sensitive radio telescope to ever be constructed.

Chinese researchers have promised to persist observing the bursts from FRB121102 to find the source of these pulses.

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