Artist's take on the FAST telescope detecting one of 1652 fast radio bursts. Credit: NAOC

1,500 Mystery Signals From Deep Space Detected in 47 Days

The origins of fast radio bursts are still unknown, although a variety of hypotheses have been put forward in recent years. Scientists are considering several candidates, including neutron stars, black holes, and even cosmic strings that have lasted since the time of the Big Bang.


An international research team led by Professor Li Di and Dr. Wang Pei of the National Astronomical Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC) has recorded the largest set of FRB events to date – the so-called fast radio bursts, arriving in record time from just one unknown source in deep space.

Astronomers detected more than 1,500 fast radio bursts in the largest discovery to date

Fast Radio Bursts

Such signals were first caught in 2007. They are characterized by a very powerful burst of energy that takes milliseconds. Until last year, FRB signals were believed to be sporadic, but recent observations prove that many of them actually repeat with a certain cyclicity.

Do we know where fast radio bursts come from?

The origins of fast radio bursts are still unknown, although a variety of hypotheses have been put forward in recent years. Some models developed by scientists even took into account such an exotic factor as the activities of aliens, but recent observations have removed this hypothesis – they have confirmed that the mysterious signals are of natural origin. And as their sources, scientists are considering several candidates, including neutron stars, black holes, and even cosmic strings that have survived from the time of the Big Bang.

1652 signals in 47 days

An international team of astronomers studied a mysterious repeating signal dubbed FRB 121101. Using the FAST Spherical Radio Telescope, scientists detected 1,652 signals in just 47 days, starting from August 29, 2019.

The largest collection of fast radio bursts to date

This incredible discovery broke several astronomical records at once.  It is the largest single collection of FRB events known to science to date. The authors of the work note that it alone includes more FRB signals than we have detected since 2007 combined.



Scientists hope that such a large packet set will finally allow determining the characteristics of this mysterious energy, including its distribution. Moreover, the data obtained can be applied to other similar signals, which, ultimately, should shed light on the nature of these mysterious signals and answer many of our old questions.


The researchers emphasize that the FRB 121102 event is the first repeating FRB that has been confirmed entirely. Scientists have traced the signals and determined that the likely source is a dwarf galaxy. The huge amount of signals received from there indicates that some kind of “permanent radio source” is located in this galaxy. At the same time, scientists write that the behavior of FRB 121102 is very difficult to predict. There is an assumption that radio bursts are associated with a certain “seasonal” factor.

Additional discoveries

By the way, this was not the only discovery. As part of the Commensal Radio Astronomy FAST Survey, astronomers discovered six more previously unknown FRBs, and one of the sources, as scientists suggest, may be a new “repeater” similar to the FRB 121102 event.


Let’s add that FRB signals can last only one-thousandth of a second, but however, they are able to emit energy comparable to the annual amount of energy generated by our sun.

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Li, D., Wang, P., Zhu, W. W., Zhang, B., Zhang, X. X., Duan, R., Zhang, Y. K., Feng, Y., Tang, N. Y., Chatterjee, S., Cordes, J. M., Cruces, M., Dai, S., Gajjar, V., Hobbs, G., Jin, C., Kramer, M., Lorimer, D. R., Miao, C. C., … Zhu, Y. (2021, October 13). A bimodal burst energy distribution of a repeating fast radio burst source. Nature News.
O’Neill, M. (2021, October 15). Origin unknown: Over a thousand powerful cosmic explosions detected by Fast Telescope in 47 days. SciTechDaily.
Strickland, A. (2021, October 14). Over a thousand cosmic explosions traced to mysterious repeating fast radio burst. CNN.
Yuan, L. (n.d.). Over A Thousand Cosmic Explosions in 47 days Detected by FAST. Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

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