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14th Jun 2024

Mysterious radio signals are coming from galaxies like our own, says study

Ryan Price

Scientists are dumbfounded by the strange sounds.

Research into unexplained and mysterious radio signals from space have led scientists to wonder if they could be coming from a galaxy similar to our own.

A team of scientists from University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics examined almost 130 non-repeating FRB’s, which are very intense, very short blasts of radio energy that come to us from deep in space.

They release as much energy in a milisecond as the Sun does in three days, and were first discovered in 2007.

Since then, more than 1,000 FRB’s have been detected from various parts of the universe, and most leading scientists still do not know where they come from.

The new report, which was published in The Astrophysical Journal, suggests that these sounds come from galaxies like our own Milky Way, with only relatively limited densities and modest magnetic fields.

The study looked at the sources using polarised light, meaning that the the scientists were able to examine not just how bright they were but also what angle the vibrating electromagnetic waves came at.

“This was the first look at the other 97 per cent,” said lead author of the study Ayush Pandhi. “It allows us to reconsider what we think FRB’s are and see how repeating and non-repeating FRB’s may be different.”

Polarized light is made up of waves that vibrate in a single plane—vertically, horizontally, or another angle in between.

The direction that light from FRB’s is polarized was seen to change in two ways: with time and with the colour of the light. These changes can explain how an FRB might have been produced and what kind of material it passes through on its journey to Earth.

“This is a new way to analyze the data we have on FRB’s,” Pandhi added. “Instead of just looking at how bright something is, we’re also looking at the angle of the light’s vibrating electromagnetic waves.

“It gives you additional information about how and where that light is produced, and what it has passed through on its journey to us over many millions of light years.”

The study concluded that most FRB’s are not like the few repeating sources that have been previously studied. It suggests that this sample is either a separate population or more evolved versions of the same population that originate in a less extreme environment with a lower burst rate.

Back in 2022, scientists discovered that an FRB signal from space came from a collection of seven galaxies, around eight billion light-years away.

That was the most powerful FRB that has ever been picked up, and scientists believed that the energy blasts were caused by the group of galaxies interacting with each other and potentially merging.

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