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China’s giant telescope picks up mysterious signals from a source about 3 billion light-years from the Earth

Chinese astronomers have detected repeated fast radio bursts (FRB), mysterious signals believed to be from a source about 3 billion light-years from the Earth, with the largest and most sensitive radio telescope ever built.

Scientists detected the signals with the 500-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) and they are carefully cross-checking and processing them, according to researchers at the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC).

FRBs are the brightest bursts known in the universe. They are called “fast” because these blips are very short, only several milliseconds in duration. But there is no reasonable explanation for their origin, reports Xinhua news agency.

The detection of the repeated bursts might help shed light on the origin and physical mechanisms of FRBs, said researchers.

Chinese scientists have installed a highly sensitive FRB backend on a 19-beam receiver on the giant telescope and used it to observe an FRB source named FRB121102, which was first discovered by the Arecibo Observatory in 2015.

From late August to the beginning of September, more than 100 bursts were detected from FRB121102, the highest detected so far.

The FRB backend system has high-efficiency real-time pulse capture capability, and can observe in parallel with most observation tasks.

FAST, nicknamed in China as Tianyan, is a radio telescope located in the Dawodang depression, a natural basin in Guizhou.

It consists of a fixed 500 metre diameter dish constructed in a natural depression in the landscape.

It is the world’s largest filled-aperture radio telescope, and the second-largest single-dish aperture after the sparsely-filled RATAN-600 in Russia.

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