The Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) has been operating in British Columbia for less than a year and already it has detected something unusual in deep space. This week astronomers announced the telescope is picking up mysterious signals from deep space known as “fast radio bursts” or FRBs.
FRBs are millisecond-long bursts of radio emissions that are stupendously powerful. They are notable because scientists can find no explanation of how they could be naturally produced. This of course introduces the prospect that FRBs are an artificially created signal, possibly designed to avoid wavelengths of naturally occurring radio emissions in order to communicate with faraway civilizations.
CHIME’s astronomers noted that the strange burst, named FRB 180725A, was first observed on July 25, 2018. It is the lowest frequency (as low as 580 MHz) ever detected in space. This means whatever is producing the burst is extremely powerful.
Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics told reporters:
“‘Fast radio bursts are exceedingly bright given their short duration and origin at great distances, and we haven’t identified a possible natural source with any confidence. An artificial origin is worth contemplating and checking.”