Galaxies in the cosmos
Pictured: a view of nearly 10,000 galaxies. Called the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, this galaxy-studded view represents a "deep" core sample of the universe, cutting across billions of light-years. NASA, ESA, S. Beckwith (STScI) and the HUDF Team

For years, astronomers have been exploring the mysterious case of transient radio pulses of unknown origin, named fast radio bursts (FRB).

Ever since the first FRB came into notice in 2007, scientists have witnessed a number of similar energy bursts. They typically last for a few milliseconds, sometimes even more, but nobody has an idea where the signals come from.

Though the question still remains unanswered, a team of astronomers recently reported the discovery of another FRB, one with a strangely low-frequency range.

The mysterious radio pulse lasted only for a couple of milliseconds July 25, 2018, but that was enough for researchers using a massive radio telescope in British Columbia, Canada, to capture its signature. They were using Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory to measure the distribution of hydrogen in the Universe.

When the frequency of the FRB was analyzed, the researchers were surprised to find the signal was transmitted at the 580-megahertz frequency range.

Typically, FRBs are detected somewhere at a frequency ranging from 1000 to 1500MHz, but this particular case was different. In fact, it was the lowest-frequency FRB ever detected till date.

Previously, the lowest FRB frequency was about 700MHz, Patrick Boyle, one of the astronomers behind the discovery and project manager of CHIME, reported in the Astronomer’s Telegram. However, it is worth noting it was not the only FRB to be discovered.

After the original detection July 25, scientists witnessed few more low-frequency FRBs. These events, as Boyle stated, occurred over day and night and were not found to be related to any other on-site activity or known sources of radio frequency interference.

Though the observation comes from a genuine source, these findings have neither been verified nor published in a peer-reviewed journal. Also, just like the usual case of FRB, it still remains unclear what astronomical phenomenon is leading to this radio pulses.

Scientists believe high-energy FRBs occur once in every second and travel billions of light years before hitting the telescopes on Earth. Many think they could be coming from distant neutron stars, magnetars, or black holes.

The only way to find an answer is by detecting more of these signals. However, this has been a problem as telescopes only capture a small portion of the sky. Since 2007, not even 40 FRBs have been detected.

As CHIME offers a wider field of view – 200 square degrees at a time – than most other telescopes on Earth, scientists hope to find an FRB on a daily basis moving ahead. It’s not even covering one percent of the sky, but could still provide more FRBs to study and analyze.