A mysterious radio burst with a pattern similar to a heartbeat has been detected in space.
Astronomers estimate that the signal came from a galaxy roughly a billion light-years away, but the exact location and cause of the burst is unknown.
Fast radio bursts, or FRBs, are intense, millisecond-long bursts of radio waves with unknown origins. The first FRB was discovered in 2007, and since then, hundreds of these quick, cosmic flashes have been detected coming from various, distant points across the universe.
Many FRBs release super bright radio waves lasting only a few milliseconds at most before disappearing completely, and about 10% of them have been known to repeat and have patterns.
Fast radio bursts are so quick and unexpected that they’re difficult to observe.
The Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment telescope, or CHIME, at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in British Columbia, Canada spotted this burst.
This telescope, in operation since 2018, constantly observes the sky and, in addition to fast radio bursts, is sensitive to radio waves emitted by distant hydrogen in the universe.
The research team will continue to use CHIME to monitor the skies for more signals from this radio burst, as well as others with a similar, periodic signal. The frequency of the radio waves and how they change could be used to help astronomers learn more about the rate of the universe’s expansion.