Astronomers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and elsewhere detected a signal recently, that sounded like a persistent heartbeat. This type of signal is classified as a fast radio burst, or FRB, but this one lasted much longer.

According to a CBS article “A typical FRB, which is a strong burst of radio waves, lasts a few milliseconds. The new signal lasted up to three seconds – about 1,000 times longer than average, according to a news release.” It was also noted that the signal repeated over .02 seconds in a clear pattern, almost like a heartbeat!

Researchers studying the FRB stated that the signal came from a galaxy several billion light-years from Earth (basically extremely far)! This unique FRB was named 20191221A by researchers from MIT and McGill University in Canada who published a study on the signal.

It had received this name because in December of 2019 the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (known as CHIME, an interferometric radio telescope that continuously observes the sky and is sensitive to fast radio bursts) detected the signal.

Mateus A. Fandiño (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Photo of CHIME. Mateus A. Fandiño (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Daniele Michilli, a postdoc in MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research spoke with CBS about the signal. He explained that "not only was it very long, lasting about three seconds, but there were periodic peaks that were remarkably precise, emitting every fraction of a second — boom, boom, boom — like a heartbeat. This is the first time the signal itself is periodic."

To learn more about 20191221A and FRB’s in general, visit the CBS article here. All information is credited to CBS and those they retrieved information from. Photo by Mateus A. Fandiño (CHIME Collaboration) – CC BY-SA 4.0 – No Changes Made.

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