Australian researchers have discovered a record breaking number of brief but powerful bursts of radio waves emanating from deep space.
CSIRO radio telescopes in Western Australia detected 19 of the mysterious blasts, which nearly doubles the total number of known fast radio bursts (FRBs).
Among the 19 signals observed were some of the closest and brightest FRBs ever detected, researchers from the Swinburne University of Technology found.
Fast radio bursts are elusive signals that last just a few milliseconds, and are thought to originate billions of light-years away – but, scientists don’t yet know what causes them.
They also generate an intense blast of energy – enough that it’s almost equivalent to the amount released by the sun over the course of 80 years.
‘We’ve found 20 fast radio bursts in a year, almost doubling the number detected worldwide since they were discovered in 2007,’ Ryan Shannon, lead author of the study, said in a statement.
The scientists say they’ve also proved that the FRBs are coming from the other side of the universe, ‘rather than from our own galactic neighborhood.’
FRBs typically travel for billions of years, occasionally passing through clouds of gas.
Scientists pay close attention to the arrival of the different wavelengths to learn how much material the burst has traveled through on its journey.
‘Each time this happens, the different wavelengths that make up a burst are slowed by different amounts,’ Jean-Pierre Macquart, a co-author of the study, noted.
‘Eventually, the burst reaches Earth with its spread of wavelengths arriving at the telescope at slightly different times, like swimmers at a finish line.
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