Mysterious radio signal from space repeats every 16 days

Mysterious radio signal from space repeats every 16 days
A photo shows the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment Fast Radio Burst Project at night. Source: CHIME FRB
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Daily US Times: For the first time, researchers have noticed a pattern of radio signals from space from a single source half a billion light-years from Earth. Radio signals from space have been known repeat, but now the researchers have noticed a pattern of the signal.

FRBs or Fast radio bursts are millisecond-long bursts of radio waves in space. Individual radio bursts emit once and don’t repeat while repeating fast radio bursts are known to send out short, energetic radio waves multiple times. According to previous observations, usually, when the radio signals repeat, it’s sporadic or in a cluster.

Researchers with the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment/Fast Radio Burst Project collaboration detected a pattern in bursts occurring every 16.35 days between 16 September 2018 and 30 October 2019.

Over the course of four days, the signal would release a burst or two each hour and then go silent from another 12 days.

The findings are included in the pre-prin of a paper in arXiv, which means the paper has been moderated but not fully peer-reviewed. The authors of the paper are part of the CHIME/FRB collaboration, which has published a multitude of fast radio burst studies in recent years.

The radio signal is a known repeating fast radio burst FRB 180916.J0158+65.

Last year, the CHIME/FRB collaboration detected the sources of eight new repeating fast radio bursts, including this signal.

The FRBs have likely happened for billions of years. But humans only discovered them in 2007, and have detected only a few dozen of them since. And in June 2019, astronomers finally tracked an FRB to its home galaxy.

In general, patterns like this in astrophysics are often related to a spinning object or orbiting celestial bodies. Neutron stars often seem to strobe regularly from the perspective of X-ray detectors on Earth, because of hot spots on their surface spin in and out of view like a lighthouse beacon. And tiny planets may dim the light of the stars they orbit every time they pass between that star and Earth.

For astrophysics, patterns tend to indicate rotation but no one knows whether the pattern governs all FRBs or just some of them.