Telescope detects hundreds of radio bursts from far away galaxies

A high-powered telescope detected hundreds of unexplained radio bursts in outer space, leaving scientists looking beyond the galaxy for answers.

More than 500 fast radio bursts (FRBs) were observed by scientists using an antenna-powered telescope called CHIME, or the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, in a 12-month period between 2018 and 2019, according to findings presented Wednesday to the American Astronomical Society.

FRBs are intense high-energy radio wave pulses that can last only a fraction of a millisecond, and are thought to travel to Earth from hundreds of millions of light years away.

The phenomenon is not completely understood, and FRBs were only discovered in 2007, according to international researchers.

“Before CHIME, there were less than 100 total discovered FRBs; now, after one year of observation, we’ve discovered hundreds more,” Kaitlyn Shin, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Physics, said.

“With all these sources, we can really start getting a picture of what FRBs look like as a whole, what astrophysics might be driving these events, and how they can be used to study the universe going forward.”


The CHIME findings indicate there are as many as 800 unseen FBRs shooting across the sky every day, likely originating from magnetic fields around neutron stars, researchers said.

The FBRs were evenly distributed in space, and at least 61 of the ultra-fast signals repeated from 18 sources, scientists said.

“The story doesn’t end with the release of the catalogue. I know researchers around the globe are going to use this as the jumping off point for really exciting analyses,” said Deborah Good, a PhD researcher at UBC physics and astronomy.

More than 500 fast radio bursts were observed by scientists between 2018 and 2019.
More than 500 “fast radio bursts” were observed by scientists between 2018 and 2019.
CHIME Telescope

Harvard scientist Avi Loeb, who was not involved in the study, speculated last year that aliens could be behind the FRBs, using them for “military purposes,” or to “launch a massive cargo close to the speed of light.”

“It’s a long shot, but could at least some of these energy blasts from across the universe come from extraterrestrial civilisations?,” Loeb wrote in Scientific American last June.

The findings come as defense officials prepare to release a report detailing everything the government knows about unidentified aerial phenomena to Congress this month.

Officials with knowledge of the classified findings told The New York Times the report shows the Pentagon is unsure of the origin of 120 UFO sightings, and can neither confirm or deny that they originated in outer space.