Eight new mysterious radio bursts found repeating in deep space

Scientists detect EIGHT new mysterious radio pulses coming from deep space in breakthrough that could help to uncover their origins

  • New repeating radio bursts have been detected by scientists in Canada
  • The new findings could help unlock the mystery of deep space signals’ origin 
  • With the eight new discoveries the total number of known repeaters is at 11 
  • The discovery will add more insight to the first-ever traced signal found in June

Scientists have found eight more mysterious repeating radio bursts emanating from deep space, which more than quadruples the known number of signals from earlier this year.

The new signals were found by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) radio telescope, and give scientists a much broader data set that they hope may help finally unlock their origin. 

With the discovery, described in a paper submitted to The Astrophysical Journal Letters, the number of repeating radio bursts signals has climbed to 11.

The new signals will aid scientists in their efforts to trace the origin and cause of mysterious radio bursts from deep space.

According to Nature, the results of a separate observation from researchers in Australia have yet to be published, but bring the number of findings this month alone to nine total.

In addition to increasing the amount of data available to astronomers, the recent findings are significant for the type of radio bursts identified.

Signals described by researchers repeat, meaning they can be studied for extended periods of time, unlike their one-off counterparts which come and go after being detected only once. 

Because of the latter’s ephemeral nature, tracing their origin has been an extremely difficult task, though not altogether impossible. 

In a previously unprecedented feat, scientists traced a one-off radio burst to its origin last month.

According to an Australian-led team operating out of the Gemini South telescope in Chile, the signal was traced to a galaxy roughly 3.6 billion light-years away.  

The recent spike also means that scientists can be begin comparing and contrasting the signals and test new theories. 

Repeating radio bursts may be less rare than previously though. According to a recent paper, all of the signals may repeat, just in intervals not previously recorded. Artist’s impression shown

In a paper published by Harvard-Smithsonian astrophysicist Vikram Ravi last month, the scientist posited that all of the radio bursts could actually be repeating, just at frequencies not previously detected.

‘Just as some volcanoes are more active than others, and you can think a volcano is dormant because it has not erupted in a long time,’ physicist Ziggy Pleunis of McGill University told ScienceAlert.

Already, scientists have noticed some difference between what are thought to be repeaters and their one-off iterations. For instance, repeating signals descend in frequency, giving what scientists have called a ‘sad trombone’ effect. 

Aiding scientists in the quest to unlock the mystery, will be a machine-learning technique unveiled this month that automatically picks up the bursts when they reach Earth.


Fast radio bursts, or FRBs, are radio emissions that appear temporarily and randomly, making them not only hard to find, but also hard to study.

The mystery stems from the fact it is not known what could produce such a short and sharp burst.

This has led some to speculate they could be anything from stars colliding to artificially created messages.

Scientists searching for fast radio bursts (FRBs) that some believe may be signals sent from aliens may be happening every second. The blue points in this artist’s impression of the filamentary structure of galaxies are signals from FRBs

The first FRB was spotted, or rather ‘heard’ by radio telescopes, back in 2001 but wasn’t discovered until 2007 when scientists were analysing archival data.

But it was so temporary and seemingly random that it took years for astronomers to agree it wasn’t a glitch in one of the telescope’s instruments. 

Researchers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics point out that FRBs can be used to study the structure and evolution of the universe whether or not their origin is fully understood.

A large population of faraway FRBs could act as probes of material across gigantic distances. 

This intervening material blurs the signal from the cosmic microwave background (CMB), the left over radiation from the Big Bang. 

A careful study of this intervening material should give an improved understanding of basic cosmic constituents, such as the relative amounts of ordinary matter, dark matter and dark energy, which affect how rapidly the universe is expanding.

FRBs can also be used to trace what broke down the ‘fog’ of hydrogen atoms that pervaded the early universe into free electrons and protons, when temperatures cooled down after the Big Bang. 

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