What's causing strange radio signals from nearby galaxy?

What's causing strange radio signals from nearby galaxy?
Eddie Chau
January 8, 2020
January 8, 2020 1:45 PM EST
Dusk falls July 5, 2005 over the Very Large Array (VLA), one of the world's premier astronomical radio observatories, on the Plains of San Agustin, New Mexico.ROBYN BECK / Getty Images
Is it a sign of new life from another galaxy?
A mysterious repeating radio burst has been traced by astronomers to a nearby galaxy that closely resembles the Milky Way. But they apparently don’t know what’s causing it, even after a decade of research.
According to the Daily Mail, the signal, which lasts less than two-thousandths of a second and repeats four times over the span of five hours, was originally detected in 2018 by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) telescope.
The radio bursts were found in Galaxy FRB 180916, which is situated half-a-billion light years from Earth.
Kevin Bandura, West Virginia University computer science and electrical engineering assistant professor, co-wrote a study on the bursts with Sarah Burke-Spolaor. He told the Daily Mail that what’s interesting about the repeating bursts “is that it is in the arm of a Milky Way-like spiral galaxy, and is the closest to Earth thus far localized.”
“The unique proximity and repetition of this FRB might allow for observation in other wavelengths and the potential for more detailed study to understand the nature of this type of FRB,” said Bandura.
The study — originally published in journal Nature — noted despite being half-a-billion light years from Earth, the galaxy where the radio burst came from is seven times closer than the only other documented burst that’s been localized.
The discovery was made by astronomers from West Virginia University after using data from eight telescopes across the globe. The university has been studying fast radio bursts since 2007.
The Daily Mail reported the university’s discovery deepens the mystery that surrounds the signals, which Burke-Spolaor said were previously believed to have been created by magnetars — dense stars that emit large amounts of energetic radiation.
Galaxy FRB 180916 is also much larger and less dominated by metal compared to other galaxies that have produced fast radio bursts. While that dispels the theory that bursts can only be made by specific galaxies, it still doesn’t narrow down what causes them.